Police will have a visible presence in the Helsinki Pride parade due to take place on 1 July in the Finnish capital, as officers in uniform take to a float organised by the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman. They will also man info points jointly with other officials following the parade.
"We are concerned about hate crimes that have also targeted sexual minorities," said inspector Måns Enqvist of the National Police Board.
Zero tolerance for hate speech
Police say that they have noted an increase in hate speech with growing concern over the past year. Authorities have also noted more reports of sex offences as well as crimes targeting sexual minorities. Enqvist said that a police presence in the parade will lower the threshold for discussion.
"On a broad front we are trying to send a message equally to everyone that hate speech will not be tolerated and that crimes must be reported," Enqvist commented.
Police say they have also put more effort into preventing hate crimes.
"For the past year we have invested a lot in identifying hate crimes and preventing them in many areas, whether they be crimes targeting ethnic or sexual minorities," Enqvist explained.
He said that the National Police Board had not received invitations to participate in Pride celebrations in any other city but Helsinki.
Police ban on sporting uniforms while off-duty
Enqvist made it clear that any police officers seen in uniform at this year’s pride parade will be doing so as part of their official duties, and not on their free time. They will be ensuring the safety of participants in the procession and will put in an appearance on the float organised by the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman. Police officers who participate in the Pride celebrations on their own time will be expected to do so out of uniform.
"The same goes for police marching on their own. A couple years ago police took to the streets over salaries. In that case they were not allowed to march in uniform. They had different vests for that event, so that the roles would not be confused in terms of who was participating and who was monitoring," he added.
Last year a Defence Forces officer created a stir on social media when he participated in the Helsinki Pride parade in his service uniform. After initially reprimanding the officer for his uniformed appearance, the Defence Forces relaxed their rules about appearing in uniform.