Inquiry ‘to restore confidence in police’

Sweden's national police commissioner, Bengt Svensson, has launched an independent inquiry into racism within the police force in Skåne in a bid to restore confidence in the police.

A series of revelations have emerged in recent days including a police video with officers making racist and threatening comments and the use of names such as Negro Niggersson and Oskar Negro for internal training purposes.

“What has happened is shocking and unacceptable. We have to get to the bottom of this and to do so we need help,” Bengt Svensson said.

Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask told Dagens Nyheter on Sunday she was “very concerned and upset,” and that said she would ask police to report about efforts to combat racism within their ranks.

Skåne police will therefore be the subject of an inquiry by an independent external investigator used to dealing with ethics and values. An investigator will be appointed next week.

“The investigator will examine whether there are deficiencies in the work to build an ethical system of values within the Skåne police and what can be done differently. This has never been done before and is incredibly important,” Svensson said.

At a course with around 50 participants at the county police in Malmö in February 2008 the names Negro Niggersson and Oskar Negro were used to assist an exercise.

“It was individual participants who chose the names which are extremely inappropriate,” explained Lars Förstell at Skåne police to news agency TT.

Several students reported the issue to senior police officers but no action was taken.

Furthermore it has emerged that police working to control unrest in the Malmö suburb of Rosengård in December 2008 used several racist terms and made a series of threatening comments directed at rioting youths.

“You little ape son of a bitch. Should I make him sterile when I catch him?” said one police officer on the tape.

“Yeah, he’s going to get beat so well that he won’t be able to stand on his own legs,” answered a colleague.

The comments came to light when a police video was presented as evidence in a court case against one of the alleged ring leaders for the unrest.

Svensson explained that the appointment of an independent external inquiry is a step towards restoring confidence in the police force in Skåne and countrywide.

The consequences of the poor judgement of several police officers and the use of offensive racist language will be felt by the police across the country, Svensson believes.

“Especially young people will question the work of the police and it will be harder for police to carry out their jobs.”

Revelations over the use of the fictional racist names for training purposes emerged only a day after the chief prosecutor Björn Ericsson decided against pressing charges against the three police officers recorded on the police video.

“I have received details of the situation in which the police officers expressed themselves, and have quite simply found that what has occurred is neither misconduct nor any other offence,” Ericsson said on Friday.


Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.