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IL: Helsinki police sergeant suspected of hate speech

The police sergeant allegedly exchanged racist messages with a man questioned in the attempted murder of a politician.

Poliisi teksti poliisihenkilön selässä.
The Helsinki Police Department has suspended a sergeant due to a suspected crime. Image: Kristiina Lehto / Yle

The Helsinki Police Department has suspended a sergeant due to a suspected crime, according to a court decision seen by Yle.

The investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) into the attempted murder of a Finns Party politician has resulted in criminal suspicion turning on a member of the police force, the tabloid newspaper Iltalehti (IL) reported on Thursday.

Police are probing a serious attack last summer on Pekka Kataja, the party’s electoral chief in the Central Finland district. The attack took place last July in Jämsänkoski, south-central Finland.

In the course of the investigation, law enforcement officials discovered racist messages apparently sent by a Helsinki police officer on the phone of a previous suspect in the case.

Police tight-lipped about possible charges

The sergeant, a 25-year veteran of the force, was suspended indefinitely in early October, Helsinki Police communications director Juha Hakola confirmed to Yle. The officer will remain suspended at least during the preliminary investigation and possible legal proceedings, Yle has learned.

The possible charges and reasons for the decision remain confidential.

The newspaper reports that the officer is suspected of incitement against an ethnic group, based on the racist messages sent to the former suspect in the Kataja case.

The messages criticised immigrants in terms that justified launching a preliminary investigation, says IL. The sergeant has been interviewed by the NBI, which is in possession of the officer’s mobile phone.

According to IL, the officer has denied committing any crimes and dismissed his messages as just humorous quips.

IL: Officer exchanged messages with Soldiers of Odin activist

The man formerly suspected of attempted murder has been freed and is no longer a suspect. The man has been actively involved in far-right groups, including the Soldiers of Odin and the Nationalist Alliance (Kansallismielisten liittouma), the paper reports.

The police officer is known to hold views critical of immigration, speaking out as a private individual on the alleged risks associated with reception centres for asylum seekers. The sergeant has also argued that it is dangerous for young Finnish women to become involved in dating relationships with men of foreign background, IL adds.

According to an IL survey of police officers in 2017, the conservative National Coalition Party (NCP) and the Finns Party were by far the most popular political parties among members of the police force.

In the previous parliamentary election, 26.5 percent of respondents said they had voted for the NCP, while 24.8 percent said they had voted for the Finns Party. The Centre was a distant third with 11.3 percent.

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