The 2010sInternet policing and cybercrime

Internet police investigate crimes committed in the virtual world and inform the public about important matters pertaining to the online environment. Over the years, the police organisation has adapted to changing circumstances and demands by appearing in a variety of forms, focusing on villages, town squares, blocks, young people, schools and communities. This kind of policing has always been a form of preventive work based on visible presence and interaction with citizens. Internet police officers are the “town square police” of modern society, working on online “forums” according to the principles of community policing. Image: Police Museum / Emilia Anundi.

In 2014, the amount of police departments was reduced from 24 to 11. The National Traffic Police and the Police Technical Centre were no longer separate administrative units. In 2016, the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) was made a separate police unit under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior. Supo’s tasks were defined as counterterrorism, security work and counterintelligence.

The Finnish police has about a million assignments each year. The primary method of intervention is to use “advice, exhortations and commands”, but if words are not enough, police officers have a legal right to use coercive measures appropriate to the situation. Citizens’ rights, the law and principles of policing are in agreement that the police should only use the mildest forms of coercion required in each situation.

Socially gifted policemen who are good listeners and discussion partners may receive special training to become so-called tactical negotiators. The purpose of tactical negotiations is to calm down a conflict and solve problems without using force. Negotiators are typically used to communicate with suicidal or violent persons and during sieges or other tense situations. They also work with international cases such as child abductions. Tactical negotiators are used increasingly often, and social media have offered new ways for them to reach out.

The presence of the police in social media has increased greatly during the 2010s. Facebook is the forum where the police has been active for the longest time. In 2017, 40 police officers had Facebook profiles for professional use. The Police of Finland and its various police units and police departments have received a total of about 600 000 likes.

The concept of “hate speech” has become part of public discourse, and what constitutes hate speech is often debated. The police strives to prevent and intervene against hate speech. For example, hate speech on the internet or other forums may fulfil the requisites of a number of crimes.

The police offers a number of online services for the public. One may submit an application for an identity card or passport, report a crime or answer questions about who was driving one’s car when it was caught speeding by an automatic traffic surveillance camera. One may also book an appointment at a service point. From 2016 onward, driver’s licenses and other traffic permits are no longer issued by the police, but by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi). The public may report crimes online if the crimes are small and do not require immediate police intervention. One may also send tips to the police if one notices something suspicious on the internet.

Cybercrime has become increasingly common. This form of crime includes computer hacking, theft of data using malware, and various kinds of attacks against servers. In 2015, a cybercrime unit was established at the National Bureau of Investigation to counter these threats.

Getting a new passport does not necessarily require a visit to the permit office of the police. Booking a time for one’s visit is becoming increasingly common, enabling citizens to be served without having to wait. Image: Sami Hätönen.

Removal of license plates from a vehicle that has not undergone a mandatory routine check-up. An automatic license plate processor for police cars was introduced in 2015. Located on the dashboard of the patrol car, this tool processes all license plates encountered and points out cars that have not undergone the mandatory check-up. In order to hand out a fine, the patrol unit must stop the car, but this is done only if there are no urgent matters to attend to and the conditions are suitable for pulling the car over. If an automatic traffic monitoring camera catches someone speeding, a fine will be mailed to that person’s home based on the license plate number. The presence of such cameras must be clearly indicated with signs. Image: Sami Hätönen.

The mounted police unit of Turku was disbanded in 2016, and since then, only Helsinki has police horses. The tasks of the mounted police mainly include upholding public order and security. They may also be present at major events around the country, such as concerts, sports competitions and protests. Horses may also be used for representation and whenever the police organisation, as part of its pre-emptive work, wants to reach out to the public in an exciting way. Image: Sami Hätönen.

An equipment belt is used to carry the handgun, spare ammunition, the truncheon, handcuffs and a can of pepper spray. Some officers carry an electroshock weapon. The belt also has space for a flashlight. The police must use coercive measures in a professional manner, and whenever force is used, reports are written. If necessary, the police officer must be able to explain his or her use of coercive measures, sometimes even in court. Image: Sami Hätönen.

Every police officer has a badge that must be carried at all times. The badge must be shown upon request unless doing so would compromise successful completion of the assignment at hand. Occasionally, criminals have impersonated police officers to take advantage of the fact that Finns generally trust their police force. These fake police officers often, usually by phone, attempt to obtain credit card information and online banking codes from older people. Impersonating a public official is a crime. Image: Sami Hätönen.

From 2016 onward, new patrol cars have been given reflective colouring to increase their visibility in the dark. The general emergency number 112 was introduced in 1993. The Finnish Police used to have an emergency number of its own, 10022, but this number was taken out of use in 2011, making the general emergency number the straightforward way to call for help. Image: Sami Hätönen.

Continuous practice is an essential part of developing one’s skills. Making mistakes during practice is usually harmless, but in real-life situations, officers may be seriously injured or even killed while performing their tasks. Image: Sami Hätönen.

Crowd control teams (JOUHA) have been deployed during events such as Independence Day protests and disturbances at and around refugee reception centres. Image: Sami Hätönen.

During 2015, a record number of asylum seekers, 32 476 in total, entered Finland. Most of them travelled to Finland by way of Sweden, crossing the border from Haparanda in Sweden to Tornio in Finland. In order to register all the newcomers, a refugee hotspot was established in Tornio as a joint project of several authorities. The hotspot registered about half of the asylum seekers before it was closed in the spring of 2016. Image: Police Museum / Jukka-Pekka Toivonen.

Police officers sometimes encounter unexpected dangers in the field. If one constantly has to be on guard, one’s mind may become too active. Seeing dead bodies at scenes of serious accidents, confronting armed offenders, meeting children who have been subjected to violence or sexual abuse, experiencing the death of a workmate, becoming handicapped or being subjected to violence in general can be traumatic for the individual police officer. Those who investigate crimes may not encounter dangers unexpectedly, but what they see and hear can be disturbing indeed. For example, police officers who work on cases involving children may be exposed to burdensome issues on a daily basis for a fairly long period of time, and there is a risk for the development of cumulative stress. Image: Sami Hätönen

Members of the police force are, in their role as public servants, highly regarded by citizens. According to the Police Barometer of 2016, as many as 96 % of respondents had fairly great or great trust in the police. Image: Sami Hätönen

Vaajakatu 2
337210 Tampere
+358 295 418 325