The National Police Board has released guidelines to assist field officers in dealing with activities by the United Brotherhood crime syndicate, which recently announced that it was disbanding.
Last Friday, the Itä-Uusimaa district court slapped a temporary ban on the group, along with its offshoot Bad Union. The decision was related to an ongoing trial in which police and prosecutors are calling on the courts to proscribe the organisation. A final verdict in that case is expected later.
Friday’s temporary ban is the first of its kind in Finland, although similar measures have been taken in other countries such as the Netherlands, German and Denmark.
Police have outlined specific cases in which they will intervene in possible activities by the group.
Symbols and colours
According to the National Police Board, the use of United Brotherhood and Bad Union emblems or modifications thereof, especially in public spaces, can be considered illegal and can constitute running an association. Use of the logos representing the three groups that merged to form the United Brotherhood in 2010 is also on the list of banned items.
United Brotherhood and Bad Union have used various meeting places in different municipalities. Using a shared space or securing a new location can be seen as continuing the activities of an outlawed body. However gathering of members and maintaining contact have not been prohibited.
According to the National Police Board, United Brotherhood’s social media presence may also be considered practicing as an outlawed association. The sanction for operating an illegal organisation is a fine. Police may also confiscate gang motifs and other paraphernalia.
Police inspector Teemu Saukoniemi said that each potential case will be investigated separately, and added that police are also open to tips about possible UB activities.
"There is no need to call emergency services if you see someone in clothing with banned symbols. Tips can be sent through slower channels," he commented.
Because a fine is the maximum penalty for using banned logos, monitoring potential offences will not be a top priority for police.
Three other symbols on list of banned items
In addition to markings used by United Brotherhood and Bad Union, the symbols used by three other criminal groups have also been prohibited.
They include emblems used by Natural Born Killers, M.O.R.E. and Rogues Gallery, which came together in 2010 to form the United Brotherhood.
"We interpreted the court’s decision to mean that we can intervene in cases where gang members try to bypass the ban by using their old gang logos," Saukoniemi explained.
United Brotherhood’s signature colours are red and black and much of its gear also features the numbers “212”, a reference to the letters U and B, which appear 21st and second in the alphabet, respectively.
Police said that UB’s colours and symbols are an important part of the group’s influence. Members have always attempted to use the colours whenever possible: in cigarette lighters, wall clocks and even in the wool socks worn in prison.
Asked how far police intend to police the use of gang-related colours and symbols, Saukoniemi said that some cases would be easier than others.
"I would say that monitoring the use of gang clothing and official premises are easier, but other [cases] would require more investigation. Everything will be dealt with on a case by case basis," he concluded.