Swedish police stealing confiscated goods

Valuables worth hundreds of thousands of kronor left in police custody have disappeared in recent years, leading officials to conclude that police employees have been pilfering the goods, according to reports in the Swedish media.

In 82 cases over the past five years, the police have had to reimburse people for money and valuables stolen while in police custody, reported national TV channel Sveriges Television (SVT) on Tuesday.

A total sum of 334,470 kronor ($53,000) in compensation has been paid by the National Police Agency (Rikspolisstyrelsen).

Head of the agency Bengt Svensson said to SVT that he is disappointed that the police force has “that type of employees”.

Thus far, the police have been reported 128 times in 2011 for goods that have gone missing following confiscation by police.

“We suspect that money is missing in 15 of these 128 cases, and in 39 cases other items are gone, such as mobile phones,” Jan Friberg of the internal investigation department at the National Police said to news agency TT.

He doesn’t know if the suspected thefts are increasing, nor how many cases have led to prosecution.

Kalle Wallin, the agency’s administrative head, sees the many reports as a severe problem. Even though suspected cash thefts are relatively few, he considers them unacceptable.

“Every single case in which a police employee commits a crime is miserable, and a failure for the force. It hurts the public’s confidence in our organisation,” he said to TT.

According to Wallin, the National Police Board has already taken measures to reduce the alleged thefts, including information, new guidelines, and inspections.

“Now we’re going to carry out further inspections, to find the flaws in our system,” he said.

Minister for justice Beatrice Ask agrees that the thefts are a grave problem.

“My view is the same as the head of the police agency: obviously, such things shouldn’t occur,” said the minister to TT.

She added that the police are best suited to finding methods to resolve this problem, and emphasised the importance of minimizing incidents.

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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.