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Finns' trust in police slipping

The latest police barometer reveals dissatisfaction with response times, crime rates and attitudes towards minorities.

National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen presented the results of the police barometer at a press conference on Wednesday. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The most recent police barometer has shown a slight drop in public trust in Finland’s police force.

According to the results, 91 percent of the 1,082 people surveyed said they trusted the police quite or very much -- down from 95 percent in the previous corresponding survey from 2018.

The survey has been conducted every two years since 1999, with the the latest carried out in February and March this year.

However, the results do not take into account how opinions may have changed due to an increase in violent crime during the coronavirus pandemic.

Response times, detection rates criticised

The survey results revealed a drop in public satisfaction over police response times, which vary greatly depending on region, as well as confidence in the police’s ability to detect and investigate crimes.

Burglary, in particular, was mentioned by respondents as an area for improvement -- with only 55 percent saying that the police succeeded fairly or very well. In the previous police barometer, the corresponding figure was 65 percent.

Last year also saw a record number of complaints filed against the police.

In response to the results, National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen said that despite the small decline, trust in the police in Finland remains very high by international standards.

Kolehmainen added that the number of police officers in Finland has been gradually declining over the course of the last decade, and there are now hundreds fewer officers on the beat than in 2010.

"This cannot go unnoticed in everyday life," the commissioner said.

Authorities are trying to reverse this trend however, with the latest government program proposing that the number of police officers be increased to 7,500 within the next two years.

Room for improvement in treatment of minorities

Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo told journalists that she considered the results of the survey to be mainly good, but she raised two concerns: the attitude of the police towards people with a foreign background, and a noticeable increase in certain types of crime.

Ohisalo pointed to one result of the survey which found that that only 53 per cent of respondents believed that the police treat people of a minority background in the same way as native Finns.

Police attitudes towards minorities have become a global issue in the context of the Black Lives Matter protests, including in Finland. However, the 2020 police barometer was conducted before the protest movement began in Finland.

In addition, the survey also revealed a perceived rise among the public in crimes such as burglary and sexual offences, as well as an increase in witnesses of crimes experiencing intimidation and pressure.

"Signals like these must be taken seriously," Commissioner Kolehmainen responded.