“Officers are often reporting mistakes they have made themselves and if that gets out in the media it doesn’t feel that great to file an accident report any more – and so they just stop doing it,” Mikael Kandelin, a police safety representative from western Sweden, told Sveriges Radio (SR).
When the broadcaster rang round to police safety ombudsmen across the country, they were given similar accounts of the situation.
Many officers no longer want to report mistakes, fearing that details will be spread to the media. The reports are official documents and as such – according to a court ruling from last year – they are fair game for any reporter.
Swedish news agency Siren, sifting through a large amount of official documents every day to extract those with news value to their customers, appealed last year to the Sweden’s Supreme Administrative Court (Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen) to get access to the police accident reports.
After winning the case, the agency has been providing newspapers and media outlets with information regarding these reports, but often obscuring from view any personal information about the officers involved.
However, according to the police principal safety ombudsman, the police still feel that the risk of personal details of officers being know to the media is still too extensive and therefore they choose not to file reports.
Stefan Holgersson of the Linköping University has researched police work processes and told the broadcaster that the fear of internal reports being reported in the media is part of an ongoing trend:
“The problem with the accident reports follows the same line as the unwillingness to account for how police processes are carried out. They try to build up a front and then maintain it,” he told SR.