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Helsinki police chief suspended over drug squad irregularities

The head of the capital city's police force will be sidelined at half-pay for at least several months. He faces trial next autumn.

Lasse Aapio
Lasse Aapio Image: Markku Pitkänen / Yle

The Interior Ministry has suspended Helsinki Police Chief Lasse Aapio from his post with immediate effect. Aapio was charged with official misconduct in early May.

The ministry said on Wednesday that Aapio cannot handle his duties while the charges are pending. It adds that his suspension is essential in order to protect the reputation and reliability of the police and the exercise of official duties.

Aapio is one of three senior police officers facing prosecution related to the case of convicted former Helsinki drug squad chief Jari Aarnio. They are accused of failing to intervene in the mishandling of criminal sources by Aarnio’s team in 2012-13. He was then the city’s deputy police chief.

Criminal proceedings in their cases are expected to begin next autumn, so Aapio will be sidelined for at least several months.

“The suspension is not a statement of position on Aapio’s guilt or innocence. As we see it, Aapio does not have the prerequisites to lead the Helsinki Police during this judicial process. The public’s confidence in the police and other authorities must be protected in all circumstances,” Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen said.

Half-pay during suspension

Aapio, who has denied breaking any laws, said after he was charged that he intended to remain in his post. He has the right to appeal the suspension decision.

During his open-ended suspension, his duties will be handled by deputy police chief Heikki Kopperoinen. During his suspension, Aapio will receive half of his regular pay. If the charges are dropped, the rest of his salary will be reimbursed retroactively.

Former National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero and former police commander Jukka Riikonen are also accused of disregarding irregularities in the registration of sources used in drug squad investigations. Four other people have also been charged in the case.

District Prosecutor Harri Tiensuu tells Yle that for practical reasons the trial cannot begin at Helsinki District Court before early autumn.

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