Swedish police have been ordered not to release descriptions of crime suspects which include race or nationality to avoid being branded racist. A memo handed out to all officers instructs them to withhold the information from the public when reporting all routine crimes, including burglary.
From now on, crimes must be reported on the police website without mentioning basic descriptive information such as “height, skin colour, nationality and race, etc.” the memo, seen by Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), reads. According to the paper, the new regulation could be applied to everything “from minor traffic accidents to serious crimes like muggings, beatings and murder.”
The memo makes it clear that the instruction has been handed down to avoid accusations of racism, telling officers: “The police are sometimes criticised for reporting on peoples’ skin colour. We are perceived as racist. As the police are not racist, nor should be perceived as such, from now on, please apply these instructions.”
Dated 15 September 2015, the memo was written by press officers Wolf Gyllander and Carina Skagerlind just weeks after a number of girls were sexually abused by migrant men at a free youth music festival in Stockholm; crimes which the police have now been accused of covering up. Thefts also occurred at the event.
Following the outcry over large-scale sexual attacks across Europe on New Year’s Eve, it emerged that 38 separate reports of rape and sexual assault were made to the police in 2014 and 2015, yet the police failed to mention them in their reporting of events, instead telling the public that the festival had passed off without incident.
“We should certainly have written and told people about this, no doubt. Why it did not happen I do not know,” Mr Gyllander told the press. Claiming that there may have been “legitimate reasons,” he promised to investigate.
His own memo may shed some light on the matter. “We wanted to avoid labelling ethnic groups as racist,” he told SvD. “Then we realised that … identifying data should not be routinely written into our public notices.”
Mr Gyllander admits that there “absolutely are often” advantages to having the information, yet added: “But we’ve made a balance on when to use this information and when it is not used. One should not routinely describe the appearance or ethnicity to not be under suspicion of racism.”
However, he denies any link to the Stockholm events, saying “No, there is no connection to it whatsoever, I was not involved in the events at all.
“But this is a general discussion, both at home and in society, we must be careful to point out ethnicity. We have been criticized for the past both by journalists and others. This is a way for us to deal with this rather difficult question.”