Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Exploring Police Relations with the Immigrant Minority in the Context of Racism and Discrimination: A View from Turku, Finland

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Exploring Police Relations with the Immigrant Minority in the Context of Racism and Discrimination: A View from Turku, Finland

Article excerpt

Abstract

Citizens and immigrant minorities come into contact with the police in various circumstances, either as witnesses, victims of crime, or even as suspects. The present study is an attempt to examine issues concerning racism and discrimination in police/immigrant relations in Finland under this circumstances, which to our knowledge has not received the academic scholastic investigation it deserves. Furthermore, this is also an attempt to look at police/immigrant everyday interactions to help in understanding this relationship. The research was carried out by means of a questionnaire (the sampled respondents consisting of forty-seven graduating police cadets a day before their graduation from the Police School and six serving police officers) and a semi-structured interview with thirteen police/cadets volunteers. These sources then served as the basis of this analysis Secondly, the participants' experiences were examined in our attempt to determine whether the relationships were cordial or not. The authors are of the opinion that the experiences of these respondents could help to understand and shed some light on how these two groups view their relations. The finding indicates some level of ignorance on the part of the police/cadets of the cultural differences between the immigrant minorities and the majority population. The causes of these cultural misunderstandings are discussed and analysed and further investigation is proposed on this issue with regard to ethnic relations in Finland.

Introduction

The image of an unarmed police officer as a public servant in uniform as opposed to a quasi-military police officer is supposed to give the impression of a friendly, and sympathetic, understanding and impeccably behaved individual (Uildricks and Van Mastrign, 1991:10). Despite this idealistic characterisation of the police, however, it is clear that tensions exist between the police and immigrant minorities to a certain degree, when the views of the immigrant minority are assessed as to the friendliness, and sympathetic behaviour of the police. Moreover, it is a fact that all human behaviour can be described either from an individual or a conceptual perspective. This is because human beings are born as unique individuals; this tends to shape our experiences, education, and worldview. Hence, these concepts are all controlled by the societal structure around us. As a result of these stated concepts wet may find a range of opinions and behaviour, especially among immigrant minorities in Finland as their experiences may vary. In many cases this can be because of their previous experiences with the police prior to coming to Finland or because of the policing style which is quite different from that of their country of origin.

Over policing, has received considerable scholarly attention elsewhere (Gordon, 1983:24 - 50; Hunte, 1966:12), and in the latter author's study for the West Indian Standing Conference, it was suggested, for example, that previously the sergeant and constables leave their stations with the express purpose of going "nigger hunting". In other words, they decide among themselves to bring in a coloured person at all costs, even when there are no such orders from their superiors to act in that way. This finding was also similar to another study, by All Faiths for One Race (1978) in which 34 African/Caribbean men in Birmingham were involved. The findings of this study indicated that one-third of the group recounted experiences of at least one incident of police harassment or brutality either to themselves or a close friend, as well as the police speaking in a racially abusive manner to indicate that Blacks were inferior. In spite of the existence of these kinds of problems, however, in the Finnish research community there is still a lack of sufficient scholarly investigation in this area. This is probably because immigration to this country is a recent phenomenon (Egharevba, 2004a), or simply because the police authorities are not interested in this area of research in Finland as the Finnish police tend to enjoy a high approval rating among the population. …

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