Officials in Finnish Lapland decry police department closings
The town of Utsjoki, for instance – after their department was moved to Ivalo – has not had an on-site police force for roughly the past year. Department Chief Esa Heikkinen says that there are also staff shortage issues in Meri-Lappi, Sodankylä, Kemijärvi and Ivalo.
« We have had to leave 7-8 police officer positions unfilled this year, because there isn’t enough money, » says Heikkinen. « The way we fill new positions has to be considered in terms of the whole department. The risk is that Enontekiö could lose all of its officers. »
Municipal Manager: Unacceptable situation
Locals in Enontekiö say they are concerned about rising crime and their own security. The municipal manager, Jari Rantapelkonen says that the municipal council is outraged by the situation.
« We cannot accept this, when the constitution assures every Finn the right to security. We don’t think that is what is happening here. We are not on an equal footing with the rest of the country, » Rantapelkonen says.
The atmosphere is similar in Utsjoki, where town manager Vuokko Tieva-Niittyvuopio says that police only know about a risky or potentially illegal situation once an accident has already taken place. She says that locals have voiced the same concerns.
« I’ve heard from people that they’ve called the emergency number and police told them that they can get there in a week’s time. There was a situation in Nuorgam [the northernmost point of Finland] where local social workers would have needed police assistance, and they were told that the officers just couldn’t make it, » Tieva-Niittyvuopio says.
Written reports to the police usually receive appropriate responses, she says, which is good but also points to a conscious problem. Heikkinen says he agrees the situation is untenable.
« We have to work with the resources that we have and assess the risks. We have to focus on the places where there tends to be more crime. »
This story is posted on the Independent Barents Observer as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.