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Report: Police warned top brass twice about cops' private Facebook group one year ago

Helsinki police issued two separate warnings to high-ranking colleagues about racist comments made by police officers in a closed Facebook group - one year before the revelations became public, according to Finnish news agency STT. The first warning reportedly came last year, with some law enforcement officials comparing the group's conduct to the humiliating scandal surrounding the police's now-disgraced and jailed former drug chief Jari Aarnio.

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New information on the racism scandal has come to light. Image: Jouni Immonen / Yle

According to Finnish news agency STT, unidentified Helsinki police officers warned their high-ranking colleagues on two separate occasions about the possible dangers posed by a secret police Facebook group a year before the scandal broke.

In both warnings the officers reportedly discussed the potential impact that the secret Facebook group could have on the image of Finland's police force. The officers also reportedly compared the potentially-embarrassing situation to the scandal caused by the now-disgraced ex-drug squad chief Jari Aarnio – who is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence after being convicted of a formidable list of more than 20 crimes late last year.

The first time police were warned was a year ago at a meeting about communication and online influence attended by Helsinki officers, where an incriminating screenshot was shown. Three police inspectors from the National Police Board were present at the meeting, as well as staff members from Finland's Police Chief Seppo Kolehmainen's office, according to STT.

The second warning was reportedly made at a police academy seminar concerning preventative action, where Police Board members were also in attendance along with dozens of other participants.

Prior to the revelations, Kolehmainen and Helsinki Police Chief Lasse Aapio - neither of whom were present at either of the events - had denied any knowledge of the group's messages, until media reports about them were published last weekend.

Long Play, a Finnish independent digital journalism outlet, uncovered a slew of racist comments and discussions in the secret 3,000-member Facebook group and published their findings on Sunday. More than a hundred screenshots of the comments corroborated the findings.

STT: Forss was asked to stay

STT cited sources that said Helsinki police wanted web cop Marko Forss to remain in the secret discussion group so he could calm the waters. Forss was sacked as the leader of the police anti-hate speech team over the scandal, as he was also the group moderator until he resigned in April.

Aapio denies any knowledge of Forss being asked to stay, but acknowledged he discussed the group with him.

"I never heard about any individual thing, just general worries about the group, I spoke to Forss about it last autumn," Aapio says.

STT reports that Forss was present at the original meeting where the group's misconduct was announced. Forss has not been reached for comment.

Edited at 15:43 to clarify headline and introduction

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