A working group set up by the National Police Board of Finland to study police response time targets presented its report to Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo on Thursday.
The group suggested that in the future police response times should be calculated only for emergency tasks (category A), where there is a greater need for rapid action. The optimal response time for the less-urgent category B will be discussed at a later stage, the group said.
The response times will be categorised using a five-step model, in which the municipalities will be divided into risk areas and assigned maximum response times.
The police board proposed different maximum operational readiness times for different parts of Finland. The shortest response time would be 11 minutes in large cities and 55 minutes in rural areas.
Response time refers to the time it takes for a police officer to get to a destination after he or she has received an alert from an emergency centre. According to the proposal, the maximum time should not be exceeded in 80 percent of the tasks.
Special patrols in remote areas
To improve the operational readiness of police in sparsely populated areas, the working group proposed additional resources for the police in the form of special patrols.
There are a significantly large number of sparsely populated areas in the police departments of Eastern Finland, Ostrobothnia, Oulu and Lapland, the report observed.
According to the report, resourcing two extra 24/7 patrols to all of these police departments would require the addition of about 120 police officers and 16 police cars at the cost of 8 million euros a year.
Instead, the group suggested that police should be freed of certain tasks that take up their working time. It proposed setting up a separate function to handle the transport of prisoners and other detainees. The report also suggested separating the district guard from the police.
Proposal to be discussed in budget talks
The interior ministry will begin evaluating the working group's proposal, minister Ohisalo said at a press conference on Thursday.
The minister said the possible measures are linked to many factors, adding that adequate resources are an important prerequisite for development work.
"This issue will also be on the agenda in the budget discussions," Ohisalo said, adding that the government programme has committed to increasing the number of police officers. However, she stressed that the work would not be completed in one term.
According to a report published by the National Police Board of Finland, police arrived at the scene in less than ten minutes in 70 per cent of emergency task missions in 2018.
However, regional differences in response times are large. The slowest time for the police to arrive was in Savukoski in Lapland, where the police arrived at the scene in an average of 71 minutes.
The task of the working group was to make a report on how response times should be reviewed nationwide in the future, what kind of targets are to be set for the police and what resources are required to achieve the said goals.