Swedish police in immigration suburb in need of police protection

Swedish police in immigration suburb in need of police protection
Police building in Rinkeby, Sweden, credit: Police Agency, Stockholm

Staff working in a new police building in a suburb in Stockholm are afraid of assaults and will be escorted by police patrols on their way to and from their work.

The building is located in Rinkeby, a so-called “utanförskapsområde” or neighbourhood with social-economic problems in Sweden, where immigrants live isolated from the rest of the Swedish population. The building which will host 400 staff is due to be inaugurated in September.

“We’ll arrive there with a history of assaults against police and our vehicles,” said Frida Nordlöf, acting local police area chief in Rinkeby, in an interview in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter on Thursday (6 August).

Though some types of crimes have decreased, the neighbourhood is still known for its severe gang criminality which has resulted in several killings in recent years. The situation is not much better in other similar areas in the other big cities in Sweden.

The influx of migrants to Sweden has resulted in a segregated society, with implications for the labour market, housing and education.  13 % of the Swedish population is born abroad, more than in any other EU member state. If also inhabitants with parents born abroad are included, the figure rises to about 25 %. Unemployment among male immigrants is around 15 %.

The failed integration policy has led to a political pushback in the form of the far-right anti-immigration party Sweden Democrats, which gained 17,5 % of the votes in the parliamentary elections in 2018. The party became almost the king maker in forming a new government but is still shunned by most of the other parties.

Recruitment to police training

To combat crimes and improve relations with those living in these areas, more police officers with the same background and talking the same language would probably help. However, attempts to increase the share of police officers with immigration background have so far been unsuccessful.

While the percentage of candidates with immigration background applying to police training correspond to the overall share of migrants in the population, the majority drops out before the training starts. It could be language problems but the recruitment agency has no explanation.

”I don’t have any figures of the background of our police officers,” Frida Nordlöf, the local police chief, told The Brussels Times. “We are aiming at diversity in the Swedish police force and our recruitment campaigns are focused on that.”

She added that there is no goal concerning the number of police officers wtih immigration backgrund in an area with many inhabitants with different ethnic background. “The police force should mirror the composition of the population at large and not only in a specific area.”

In recent years, Sweden has become known for its police films, where police officers with migration background appear, but it hardly reflects the reality on the ground. The ministry of justice declined to provide any figures. No immediate response was given by the Swedish National Police Agency.

On EU level, figures on the recruitment to and composition of the police forces in the EU member states are lacking. A spokesperson of EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, told The Brussels Times that it does not have such data. The same reply was received from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

M. Apelblat

The Brussels Times

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