Friday, September 15, 2006

How do you identify a Finnish Policeman?

There has been a huge amount of coverage and discussion in Finland this week about how the "Smash ASEM" demo was policed last weekend. Basically timed to coincide with the really boring Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) (held here in Helsinki because Finland currently holds the EU rotating presidency), was a demo organized by a bunch of anarchist. They didn't really seem to protesting about anything in particular - it seemed more a chance to wear your Che Guevarra t-shirt and Palestinian scarf and be really "radical" by shouting at the police. I don't think many who turned up to "Smash ASEM" had gone in solidarity to the Burmese refugee protests (who I cycled past the other day standing in dignified silence holding their signs) or the Falun Gong protests. The main activity seemed to be filming each other so you can later put your mates on YouTube.

Various websites had been promising general anarchy and disorder for weeks in advance and unsurprisingly the Finnish police took this as a bit of challenge (plus they probably wanted to see if their riot training actually works!). Anyway not much happened in comparison to a real riot but lots of people got arrested probably in the case of many unnecessarily as a number were journalists. Anyway there has now been an unprecedented number of complaints to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

I just have one question - if you get assaulted by a Finnish riot cop, how can you know who it was? I've seen loads of pictures of them in news magazines and the papers and from what I can see they have no distinguishing marks. As I understand it in the UK, since some police brutality during some violent labour disputes in the 1980s, riot police have had to have their badge numbers clearly visible so if they individually commit a crime, they can be held accountable. Is there anything similar for Finnish police - and if there isn't, should there be?


Martin-√Čric said...

Accountability? In Finland? You've got to be kidding!

nikko said...


no doubt your colleagues have already filled you in with this but what the heck. When on crowd control duty, it's up to the individual policeperson wether or not they choose to wear the identification patch on their uniform.

When performing more ordinary police tasks, wearing the patch is compulsory.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Nikko -

I hadn't learnt that and that's fascinating. It would be interesting to know what percentage of them choose to wear a patch - presumably judging by the number who also masked their faces - very few? It strikes me as a rather odd policy. Not quite one way or the other.