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Ombudsman: Helsinki police discriminatory in targeted data collection of Roma

For years the department recorded movements of Roma community members in the metropolitan area, taking note of vehicles they owned and the social circles in which they moved.

Stenman said the programme's methods were discriminatory and prohibited by Finland's Non-Discrimination Act. Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

Members of the Helsinki Police Department were discriminatory in the way information was collected about members of the city's Roma population, according to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, Kristina Stenman.

During the years 2013-2015, the Helsinki police carried out a preventative and data collection effort that particularly targeted the Finnish Roma community. The programme was dubbed KURI 1, and continued to some extent in 2016 and 2017.

Stenman said the programme's methods were discriminatory and prohibited by Finland's Non-Discrimination Act.

Background

It was reported in May that the Helsinki Police Department had systematically engaged in activities which suggested ethnic profiling of members of the Finnish Roma community. Over the course of several years, the department kept a record of the movements of some members of the Roma community in the metropolitan area, taking note of vehicles they owned and the social circles in which they moved.

Around that time, the National Police Board announced it had launched an investigation into the department's activities.

Later, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman recommended measures to the Ministry of the Interior and the National Police Board, saying the police should facilitate continued and informed dialogue with the Roma community, in addition to other follow-up measures.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the National Police Board said it welcomed the recommendations, adding that it would report back to the Ombudsman as required.

"The absolute prerequisite for police operations is the trust of citizens across all population groups. Procedures aimed solely at a specific group cannot be included in normal police activities and the rights of individuals can never be violated solely on the basis of their ethnic background," said police director Janne Paavola from the National Police Board.