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Police Commissioner: Finland needs hundreds more officers

Finland's National Police Board has set a goal to have 7,850 officers in the police force in a few years, up from the current 7,200.

The National Police Board of Finland wants over 600 more law enforcement officers on the beat by the year 2025, and is calling on the government to allocate more funds to the force.

Funding for police activities has fallen steadily in the last few years. Back in the early 2000s, there were 7,850 police officers in Finland, but austerity measures cut this number to 7,200 by 2017.

Paula Risikko put an end to the savings last year, when she was still acting Interior Minister. National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen is happy with this development, but says the current level of personnel is not enough. He says recent changes to legislation regulating alcohol and the growing threat of international terrorism have increased his force's workload considerably.

"I think it is justified to boost our numbers by at least 200 already at the budget negotiations this spring," he says. "It's clear that we cannot carry out our legal obligations if we aren't given an opportunity."

Serving taxpayers sufficiently

Kolehmainen says the police are also asking the government to create stronger wording in future funding decisions that would give the force more stability moving forward.

"I'm very confident that politicians will understand our concern. We don't exist for our own sake; we are here to serve the taxpayers - of course we want to keep them safe. We can manage as police officers even if we are only one thousand in number, but could the population then manage?" the commissioner asks.

He says the savings drives of the last few years have forced Finland's police force to cut back on preventive operations and general patrolling, as a shortage of officers has made it necessary to concentrate on emergency response work and the investigation of serious crimes.

"It's just being realistic to think that what is happening right now in Sweden will soon happen in Finland. I've been worried about it happening for a long time. We could lose our peaceful society and see anarchy in the streets."

Preventing no-go zones

Commissioner Kolehmainen is calling on the government for more money to train future officers and provide better salaries.

"What I find particularly worrying is that Finland should have enough police officers to prohibit no-go zones from forming, places where officials don't dare to enter," the commissioner adds.

Kolehmainen says that if law enforcement authorities begin avoiding certain areas, a segment of society that lives outside the law will take root in Finnish society.

"We've got a fantastic situation right now, but we could lose it. Getting it back would be both difficult and expensive."