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From The Independent: Swedish police banned from describing criminals anymore in case they sound racist

Swedish police will no longer be able to give descriptions of alleged criminals for fear of being seen as racist.

According to an internal letter, police in capital city Stockholm are instructed to refrain from describing suspects' race and nationality, according to news website Speisa.

...

The letter specifies that, for everyday crimes such as burglary, basic information such as ethnicity, nationality, skin colour and height should not be given.

The article was posted 14 January 2016, but it has been shared recently, such as this tweet (718 retweets, 662 likes) posted soon after the Stockholm attack:

You won't get any information on Swedish attacker's race/ethnicity, btw. Police are banned from disclosing it.

(perhaps truck attacks aren't regarded as "everyday crimes"?)

and this tweet (221 RTs, 138 likes) in December 2016.

Are Swedish police banned from giving information such ethnicity, nationality, skin colour and height for suspects of at least some categories of crimes?

  • 12
    Can we take a moment to contemplate the distinction between "Can't state this in the internal police report" and "can't disclose this information to the press"? – Shadur Apr 9 '17 at 13:35
  • 2
    The police did in fact disclose the identity of the suspect in the recent truck attack. So the tweeter is incorrect. – Anders Apr 11 '17 at 9:32
  • I am perplexed about how stating a fact about the ethnicity of an alleged criminal could be interpreted as racist by any reasonable person. – Kik Apr 12 '17 at 20:00
  • It is assumed that Speisa is run by the Norwegian nazi party so they may not be the most reliable source. – liftarn Apr 18 '17 at 7:25
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An internal memo from the police is covered by a news paper article Får interna direktiv: Ange inte signalement. The article does not contain the entire memo, but it does cite a few key parts of it.

The internal memo was dated September 15, 2015 and signed by police press-communications personnel Wolf Gyllander and Carina Skagerlind. The directive said that color, ethnic origin or nationality should not be externally communicated.

The article says:

I brevet beskrivs vilka rutiner myndigheten ska ha kring så kallade händelsenotiser som kommuniceras till allmänheten. Det handlar om allt ifrån lättare trafikolyckor till grova brott som personrån, misshandel och mord.
[The letter describes the procedures Authority should have about the so-called event notifications that are communicated to the public. This includes everything from light traffic accidents to serious crimes such as robbery, assault and murder.]

The newspaper interviewed Gyllander about the memo, who acknowledged writing it.

This is the reporter describing a section of the memo:

Efter det följer beskrivningar om hur brottsskeenden ska kommuniceras utåt. Vid vardagsbrottslighet, till exempel inbrott och stölder, så ska informationen utåt inte innehålla ”signalementsuppgifter som längd, hudfärg, etniskt ursprung eller nationalitet med mera”, skriver polisens pressavdelning.

Rough translation

After that follows descriptions about how different crimes should be communicated externally. For everyday crimes, for example burglary and theft, the police press department writes that external information should not include "identifying information such as length, color, ethnic origin et cetra".

As to the reasoning, the article continues:

Ett av skälen bakom skrivelsen uppges vara att polisen kan uppfattas som rasistisk: ”/.../ Då polisen inte är rasistisk och heller inte ska uppfattas så, så gäller från och med nu instruktionerna [i det här direktivet]”

Translated

One of the reasons behind the directives is said to be that the police could [otherwise] be perceived as racist: "/.../ Because the Police is not racist, and thus shouldn't be perceived as such, the directives [in this memo] should from now on be followed"

Gyllander agreed that there can sometimes be a benefit to providing such information, but that they wanted to strike a balance between the benefit and appearing racist, so such information would not be routinely communicated.

Reporter: Men kan det inte vara bra med ett signalement om någon haft ett inbrott i sin bostad och flera vittnen beskriver en individ med ett visst utseende?

Gyllander: Om du fortsätter att läsa instruktionen så säger vi att när vi vill ha in det vi är ute efter så ska vi kunna göra det.

In English

Reporter: But, isn't it beneficial to provide this description when for example there has been a burglary and several witnesses describe an individual with a certain look?

Gyllander: If you keep reading the directives, you'll see that we do say that if we need that kind of information [from the public] we are allowed to do that.

  • 10
    While you wait, I can add that from the linked article it sounds like ethnicity can be reported if it is useful to get help from the public. But it should not routinely be reported in cases when it is not believed to help the investigation. – Anders Apr 9 '17 at 17:52
  • @Anders see how it looks now. Yes, if you or anyone else who knows Swedish, can translate, feel free to edit. – DavePhD Apr 9 '17 at 23:24
  • 8
    Notice that the directive is for communicating with the press. – liftarn Apr 10 '17 at 6:41
  • 2
    @SVilcans: In particular, I suspect it is not directed at public requests to spot a person being searched by the police - can you confirm? – O. R. Mapper Apr 10 '17 at 20:05
  • 2
    @O.R.Mapper correct. I made an edit (pending approval) with some more information and clarifications on this as well as quotes (with translations) from the article. – Isak Savo Apr 10 '17 at 20:47

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