“It was an expression of extreme stress,” police officer Paul Juhlin said on Svergies Television (SVT), which on Tuesday will start airing a reality television series about the Mälmo police force.
Juhlin was one of the officers present during the Malmö police’s response to December 2008 disturbances in the city’s Rosengård district, which is home to a high concentration of immigrants.
During the police action, riot police called young people “blattajävlar”, an ethnic slur which translates roughly into “damn coloured people” or “damn immigrants”.
The comments were caught on the police’s own video recordings of the response and later played during the trial of a young man charged with being one of the primary instigators of the unrest.
In the film sequence, officers make a number of racist and threatening comments
“You little monkey 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 beaten so badly that he won’t be able to stand on his own two legs,” answered a colleague.
While a preliminary criminal probe into the comments was dropped, two police officers were docked five days’ wages and reassigned by the police’s disciplinary committee.
Juhlin’s statements on the incident mark the first time a police officer has commented on the incident, which received a great deal of media attention at the time.
“There maybe hasn’t been the space to say something previously; no one sticks their head up to have it cut off,” he said, according to the Sydsvenskan newspaper.
“I don’t want to defend the incident, but rather put it in a context that hasn’t previously come to light.”
According to Juhlin, the comments comparing the young people from Rosengård to monkeys wasn’t an expression of racism, but simply said in the heat of the moment as people began climbing on the police bus in which the officers were riding.
“Nasty things were said, to be sure. But it wasn’t about demeaning people; it wasn’t about racism, not about values; it was extremely stressful,” he told SVT.
Speaking with Sydsvenskan, Malmö police chief Ulf Sempert agreed with Juhlin’s assessment that the incident was stressful, but emphasized that didn’t excuse the officer’s comments.
“It’s not acceptable,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter that the police claimed that they were under a lot of stress.”
The incident, which came to light in February 2009, was followed by other revelations that police training materials used fictional characters named “Neger Niggersson” and “Oskar Neger” (Negro).