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Officials bemoan shortage of immigrant-background police

Police officials say they’d like to see more non-native Finns joining the police force, especially given the growing numbers of migrants in the capital region. Officials at the Police University College in Tampere have speculated that the rigid Finnish language requirement may have been a deterrent, and have pointed out that other language skills would be beneficial in police work.

Poliisi istuu autossa
Image: Ville Välimäki / Yle

Police officials in the capital area say they’re concerned about the lack of non-native Finnish police officers in a region that’s seeing a growth in the number of migrants taking up residence. Helsinki currently employs around 10 immigrant-background police officers while there are fewer than five in Espoo. In Vantaa, where the proportion of non-Finnish or -Swedish speaking residents is the highest in the country, there are no police officers with an immigrant background.

Vantaa police sergeant Tanja Martikainen said that the requirement for fluency in Finnish could be one reason behind the low numbers of non-Finns in the force.

“As far as I understand it the level of the Finnish language tests and admission requirements are so high that it has acted as a limitation,” she noted.

According to the Police University College written tests make up 40 percent of the entrance exams for police training. The tests also include fitness and aptitude evaluations and applicants must also have Finnish citizenship.

College head Kimmo Himberg said he recalls only one or two non-native Finnish individuals applying to enter the police training academy.

“I recall that there's one cadet with an African background is now working in the capital area. We’ve also had a few Russian students but we’d happily take more on board. At the moment we don’t have a single applicant with an immigrant background,” he added.

Police dealing with non-Finnish speakers daily

Juha Hakola of the Helsinki police said he saw the need for more police officers with immigrant backgrounds not only in the capital area, but also across much of the country.

“Here in Helsinki we have the same problem as in other parts of Finland and we should try to address the situation pretty quickly. We simply have way too few foreign-background police officers throughout the whole of Finland,” Hakola observed.

Petri Launiainen of the Espoo precinct also said he’d like to see more non-native Finns working in the suburb.

“We have a few officers with roots outside of Finland. We would warmly welcome police officers with all kinds of language skills,” Launiainen remarked.

Vantaa police say they come into contact with people who don’t speak Finnish on a daily basis. They say that the greatest need would be for officers who speak Estonian and Russian.

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