“My whole body just froze. I felt like a rat that had been pissed on,” Jeanette Larsson, the hate crimes educator with the Skåne County Police, told Sveriges Television (SVT).
Larsson, who has worked on the police force for twenty years, explained that she was on her way out of the lunchroom back in early July when she overheard a conversation between a male colleague and a female police recruit.
The officer told the recruit he didn’t approve of Larsson’s lifestyle.
“He said that homosexuals are a cancer on society and made a reference to the Bible,” she said.
“I felt degraded, dirty and violated and I quickly realised that, ironically enough, I’d been subject to a hate crime.”
Larsson said she is one of 15 openly gay women on the Skåne police force and has been educating her colleagues on how to best handle hate crime cases for the past year.
In February 2009, the Skåne police came under fire following reports of racist comments by officers on duty and revelations that racist stereotypes had been used in police training manuals.
“You little ape son of a bitch. Should I make him sterile when I catch him?” one police officer was recorded as saying when responding to disturbances in Malmö’s Rosengård district in December 2008.
“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 officers also referred to young people in the predominantly immigrant district as “blattajävlar”, an ethnic slur which translates roughly into “damn coloured people” or “damn immigrants”.
On its own, “blatte” is a derogatory Swedish term often used in reference to an immigrant.
These statements had been captured on the police’s own video and resulted in the officers being reassigned and fined.
Days later, it emerged that police training manuals used in 2008 included the names “Neger Niggersson” and “Oskar Neger” (Negro) for fictional characters in an exercise.
The revelations prompted demonstrations against racism on the Skåne police force as well as an internal investigation to find ways to restore confidence in the police.
Larsson has so far trained about a quarter of her colleagues, and while the July incident has dampened her motivation to continue, she nevertheless vowed to press ahead with her work on what she called “essential issues”.
While Larsson filed a police report following the comments, prosecutors dropped their investigation, although an internal police investigation continues.
However, the officer who made the comments hasn’t been disciplined. Instead he has been allowed to continue working at the police station reception desk, much to Larsson’s disappointment.
“Is it right to have a police officer with those kinds of values as the first person you meet?” she told SVT.
According to Larsson, police leadership needs to “put its foot down” and show that they are serious when discussing diversity and values.