Picture

A special LEN double interview:
   
Chief Supt. Nils Eriksson of the Swedish National Police
     College and Deputy Director Erkki Ellonen of the Finnish
     Police School

By Marie Simonetti Rosen

As good as police training may be
under the best of circumstances in the United States, there are more than a few parts of the world where training  particularly at the recruit level  is taken far more seriously than it is here. The length of such training alone speaks to the glaring differences, and one would be hard pressed to find better examples of that than in Scandinavia.

In Sweden, police recruit training lasts three years; in Finland, itís two years. Recruits in Finland spend a year in the academy, then head to the field for six months. While in the field, according to Erkki Ellonen, the Deputy Director of Finlandís Police School, their ďteachers go with themĒ to supervise. The recruits then return to the academy for several months to demonstrate how well they have integrated their basic training with their field work. A similar approach is used in Sweden, where recruits spend 10 months at the police college, then have 18 months of  ďpracticeĒ that includes assignments to various units within the police service designed to give the recruits a ďgeneralizedĒ experience. For a time during this period, recruits are exposed to a form of training that might make American police executives shudder  their badges and guns are taken away and they are sent to a social work agency in order to give them another perspective on police work. Like the Finnish recruits, Swedish police rookies are then brought back to the academy for several more months of training.

In both nationís police academies, the emphasis is on a fundamental knowledge of police work, the skills that go with it, ethics and problem-solving. In both places, community policing is a fact of life and training in this area is being developed. Naturally, as with so many police academies in the United States, training in community policing can be a bit elusive, particularly when new officers are integrated with the rest of the force. Chief Superintendent Nils Eriksson of the Swedish police sounds a refrain that would be familiar to his American counterparts when he says, ďEven if we could train [recruits] in a really good community policing program, on the first day they are standing in the police station, their first shift, if their sergeant is not into this way of thinking , itís wasted money, itís wasted time.Ē For Ellonen, community policing in Finland revolves around problem-solving. ďItís a way of thinking, of searching for information, of analyzing it,Ē he says. ďYou must start it in the training, and you have to struggle with it in the field, because you are giving them something new.Ē

It gives one pause to wonder what policing in the United States would be like if recruits spend as much time being trained. It is curious, to say the least, that American law enforcement officers are asked to face a society that is far more violent, but with far less training.

Finlandís Ellonen entered law enforcement via an indirect route. He studied psychology at University Turku, and subsequently worked as a research assistant, vocational counselor and psychologist. He joined the faculty of the Finnish Police School at Tampere in 1985, teaching such subjects as defusing violence, tactical negotiation, interviewing and debriefing. He became a licensed psychotherapist in 1989 and co-authored a book on interrogation tactics. He has been the police schoolís deputy director since 1995.

Eriksson, on the other hand, became a police officer in 1972, and since that time has worked in almost all branches of the Swedish police. He holds a master of law degree from the University of Stockholm, and was assigned to the National Police College in 1992. He is the international coordinator of matters concerning police training at the Swedish National Police Board. He represents the Swedish police in negotiations with the Swedish Government and international organizations of the United Nations. He also represents Sweden in police training matters in the Police Working Group within the European Union and is a member of the executive committee of the Association of European Police Colleges. Recently he has helped to engineer police training support for the Baltic nations that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, as well as for South Africa.

LAW ENFORCEMENT NEWS: Itís a bit difficult to discuss police training without first talking about recruitment. What do you look for when you recruit police? What criteria do you use to select officers?

ERIKSSON: When we recruit police officers, first of all they need to be Swedish citizens. You have further to be about 20 years of age. You need at least one year of working experience  the working experience could also be that you have taken care of your children, for example. Anything, really, so we donít get people directly out of college or something like that.

LEN: Out of college?

ERIKSSON: Yes, all students who come to us must have a school degree, which means that they can go directly to university. Itís not comparable with the States. Itís not the highest degree; itís the college degree. They must have a driverís license. For physical training, they are tested; they are interviewed at least two times. They must present a paper about themselves.

We are the only police training course in Sweden, so we get the people from all over Sweden. This means that the local police forces do recruitment for us, but then they are selected on a national level. So far the average age has been about 25, when they start our basic training program. Even within that group we get different kinds of people. We get people of 40, we get people of 22. We get people from different kinds of backgrounds: nurses, some have studied law, some have actually been examined from law school, farmers, whatever  it is a real good mixture of people. Thatís what we are looking for because we would like to mirror the society, and our problems are, for the moment,  to get enough people with an immigrant background, and more females.

The percentage of females in the Swedish police is less than 20 percent total. We have succeeded in getting about 35 percent of female students at our college every year, and we try hard by advertising in TV programs and in magazines that are actually read by immigrants or by females. We have a higher percentage than 35 who apply, but thereís no quota, and everybody has the same test. So we have succeeded in staying around 35 percent of females every year. Our goal is to have about 40 percent of females in the total Swedish police force in the future, but with 35 percent every year, it will take us till the year 2020, something like that, to reach that number of females.

On average we used to recruit between 400 or 500 every year. I guess we have about 5 percent, 6 percent who quit for different reasons most of them because they thought it was more running, shooting and screaming than theoretical studies when they start. They are a bit shocked when they find out things about our cup of tea. You discover that they donít stand up to the theoretical level which is needed, they donít pass the different exams. Others stop behaving the way we think is appropriate to a police officer, and others are actually asked to leave because we find out things about them, or they get caught for little crimes. Of course, before we recruit, thereís also a check in our registers that they donít have anything in their past. If we find something like that, we normally donít accept them as students. For the moment, we donít need to because we have about seven-plus applicants for our places, and then we can choose.

We are not sure that we are getting the right people anyway. If you try to recruit very good people who are going to work in an environment which is not the best, normally they donít come from homes where thereís been divorce, or from homes where they have economic problems. So they are a bit unprepared and unfamiliar with that kind of social environment where they sometimes have to work. We donít know how to solve the problem  well, we donít find itís a problem, but we find itís something that could be improved one way or the other. We donít have the solution. Though itís a high average age, the officers we recruit  itís normally a second career one way or the other, which means that most of them stay on. I would guess that in Sweden, if you become a police officer, you retire as a police officer. So itís good and bad. If you change careers, itís also good because you get good ambassadors for the community policing to help keep the connections, and also to get the real message out there.

LEN: Mr. Ellonen?

ELLONEN: One thing to begin with is that in spite of the fact that Finland and Sweden are very near to each other, we have some differences in the society. For example, with incomes thereís a big difference. Concerning just policemen, in Sweden you have concern to get the mixture of different age, and so on. In Finland we get about 3,500 applicants per year, and we take about 200 or 250 on a continuous basis. We are very busy training at the moment because there are more policemen needed. The usual age when coming in is about 22, 23. We have tests: physical, interviews, psychological tests, some knowledge tests to understand how to handle information, and so on. Females are about 15 percent coming in. There is a selection board which makes the selection finally, and takes the responsibility. So we get quite a homogeneous group of talented young men. We can really pick the cream.

LEN: Police training in the United States is, at best, six months. recruits learn the law, procedures, self-defense, tactics, firearms training, with a little bit of ethics and cultural-diversity training thrown in. Given the complexity of police work, many departments are struggling to make training more relevant to the job. What does your training emphasize, and what would you recommend?

ELLONEN: We have in fact a new basic training system; it started in May. Of course thereís lots of philosophy, but the main point is to give them the practical skills in the field. The whole basic training takes two years, so there is a lot of juridics, behavioral science, professional subjects and so on. We donít differentiate the subjects; they are all the skills of the police. In this new training system, we really emphasize skills so that they are able to develop as policemen.

First, one year is basic, key skills and the role of the police, ethics, a lot of that, juridics, basic knowledge. After that they go to work for half a year. Theyíre supervised during that period, and they are still our students, but they are in the field, and our teachers go with them to see and have connections there. This is our new system. Then they come back for three or four months and they have this period where they can show what they have learned. We test them before we let them out. After two years they get their license to be a constable and work in the field.

So, then, we have a lot of work with the new training system. Itís skill-based and it involves multidisciplinary teams with teachers who work together with the pupils and try to get new training methods. For example, problem solving. Problem-oriented learning is a basic philosophy we try to work with to get the best of things, because in the field you have problem-oriented community policing teams. In the school you have to have the same philosophy so that they get the tools to think when they go to the field. The problem is that the field is much bigger and it doesnít change as quickly as we can do in training. So we try to emphasize more cooperation between teams and the training. That has been a problem, that police training has been such that the trainingís there and the fieldís there and thereís a big gap between.

Concerning this minority training, I have worked as a psychologist, and participated in a lot of discussions in Europe about these diversity things. At the moment we have a new way of thinking about that, too, because in a way with the old one, the police have wrong attitudes. Instead, we are trying to train them to behave in a European way, a civilized way, a positive approach  skills to be with foreign people, not to be afraid of them, for example, but to see them as human beings, like everyone else.

LEN: What about the Swedish approach?

ERIKSSON: To start with the end, it is extremely hard to give a recommendation when it comes to police training, because police training should actually aim at being one of the servants of that society youíre working within. Weíre trying harder in the European Union for the moment to find basic standards which would be the equivalent to things like that. But among the European countries itís very hard to give some overall recommendation, especially when it comes to countries that have a lot of different police forces, with different police tasks. With the Finnish or the Swedish or the Norwegian police, itís very easy because we have some of the same basic values. The Swedish police force is responsible for everything from the Security Service  which would be the equivalent to your Secret Service  and FBI and everything down to the local police authority in a small village. They have the same training, the same rights, the same uniform.

As I told you before, this is what we have done; itís impossible for me today to say how it will look in the future. But what we have tried to do today of course, the main part of that will be also in our future curriculum  is to find a good balance between skill and knowledge. Itís good to have good skills, itís necessary because all professionals need to have a certain amount of skills. You could have a profession. But you also need to have knowledge of how to use the skills, why you use it, when you use it, and how it can improve your skills, because the change in society is so very rapid, you know, and sometimes you must build some different methods. So to have a knowledge about changing legislation, changing of society, changing of policy, changing of demands, etc., means that you also improve your skills. But the base, as we see it, is knowledge, and then the skill is something which we build on to the knowledge.

We also stress very much in the theoretical part whatís going on the Swedish legislation, the law and human rights. We have always considered human rights to be well covered within the other topics, but what we are developing now is actually human rights more as a topic in itself. The Swedish legislation has built in very many human rights guarantees within the Police Act. But it also has to do with the ethnic minorities, with the more multi-cultural society we have developed to be.

Like my Finnish colleague, I do agree that the way to do it best, at least for the moment, is to get our police officers to be problem-solvers. To come there, we need to train them with a problem-based learning system. We need them to be problem-oriented, to see the task as a problem. We wouldnít like in the future to go to the same house where they are beating up the wife or the husband every night. We want to solve that problem. Of course, that also means we have to train our officers in cooperating with other authorities and other agencies, whatever, because the police cannot do everything themselves, and shouldnít. We might give early alarm to other agencies that something is wrong here, and then we should do our part and take our responsibility, and also to encourage others so that they can take their responsibility and we can solve the problem together. It should be and could be a very good way of cooperation.

One thing I forgot to say when it comes to recruiting, and that is, for the moment, the way we train our students is a 33-month curriculum. It starts, like the Finnish, with 10 months at the police college. That is a basic training program with an enormous lot of theory, and then the skill training to know how to use the theory. Then they go for 18 months of practice. In this practice they are not just a resource for the force who gets them. We try to do as Erkki has told you, to keep in contact with them during that time so that we know in a way that they still belong to us, that theyíre still under training. They got the badge, they got the gun, and during those 18 months they are doing everything within police, even working in the chiefís office, to learn administration, to learn where the money comes from, to learn the political influence within the police, to learn all about the different legal responsibilities that an administrative office of the Swedish police has. Then they go to forensic, to the drug squad, to traffic  they should be getting generalized training during this period. Also, as a part of this period we take away their guns, take away their badges, and they are not bound to the Secrecy Act for between two and four months where they actually work with a social work authorities or somewhere else thatís relevant, to see police work from another point of view, and get another perspective on their own profession. Then we bring them back to the college for five months and we go into much more community policing. We also try to debrief them a bit, and they get a chance to ask about things they have noticed and a lot of what went wrong on them during this time, and then we graduate them after a total of 33 months.

During the first 10 months, so far they havenít had any kind of salary; they have to finance those studies themselves. Itís like any other kind of professional training, where they have to finance it themselves. We want to get people who are interested in police work and want to invest in it. Itís also good because they put pressure on the teacher, they put pressure on the system. Norway, for example, has that system today. They have a three-year basic training: one year in, one year out, one year in. And they have to finance it themselves. So thatís the way we are doing it for the moment.  But as I said earlier, we have stopped recruitment and training for the moment, and I think that sometime next year weíll be able to tell you what it will be. We are discussing using the university to take on the theoretical part of the training. It also will encourage the students later on to carry on their studies within the university, and it also will open up other markets for them, not just within the police.

ELLONEN: If I can comment, please. About the skills, as Nils told you, thereís been a shift from knowledge and technical skills in our country. Because there are lots of different skills. There are technical skills you need in police work, like doing security. There are also behavioral skills you have to have to work as a policeman, intellectual skills, skills for searching for information. So skills are a very broad subject, and you canít say anymore that itís knowledge against technical skills because itís a much more complicated thing. And in Finland, for the moment, all is paid for, but who knows what this Swedish system might bring to Finland.

ERIKSSON (laughing): Thatís also a typical Nordic thing. One country starts with one thing; the others wait a couple of years, take the best out of it, and they start using each otherís experience. Itís a very interesting situation because Norway, Sweden and Finland all have different models at the moment. Maybe it can inspire us to work to gather the best points.

LEN: In the United States, just to give you an example, there are some states that use colleges or universities to provide training the way youíre describing it. The curriculum is developed jointly by the police authority and the college, and after two years of college that person becomes certified. Yet many police chiefs feel that the officersí skills are still lacking....

ERIKSSON: The reason why the Swedish Government is interested in reviewing the present Swedish model of police basic training and using universities is, first of all, itís a way of forcing students to get used to that kind of education, and also to mix with other parts of society. They have to find their own lodging; we donít barracks them, so they might be mixed up in society already. Thatís one reason. The other one is to make the knowledge more significant. So what they should study at the university would be law, communication skills, social science. In order to do that at college, the police would then be in another atmosphere. But still, we would be responsible for the skills training. This would just be a formal part of the police training.

LEN: In other words, you would go through your recruitment process and tentatively accept them, and then they would go to college?

ERIKSSON: Thatís right. These courses then will be paid by the Swedish National Police for those who are accepted as students. The courses will also be open to others so that in the same classroom there will be a mixture of people. Then, perhaps, if they havenít done it before, they could later apply. But this is just to show that thereís a new way of thinking within this administration. We donít know how long it will be; we donít know exactly what will continue, we donít know even when it will happen. Itís always a question of money.

LEN: Isnít it always?

ELLONEN: Iíd like to comment, because there are, of course, many reasons why we make different solutions. In Finland,. starting in the beginning of next year, we have coming a system where we have two police science professors in our university, and they are responsible for developing police sciences, police subjects inside the university, and they are the contact persons for how we get into the university level. We donít use the university at basic training level; itís in the chief level. The problem is what kind of research would help police. Thatís why we have decided we want to have our own professors. We pay their salariesÖ

LEN: You pay their salaries so that the research will be relevant to what you want, rather than following someone elseís agendaÖ.

ELLONEN: Yes, thatís the point. So itís coming the beginning of next year. We have big reforms all the time now in Finland.

LEN: In the United States, many departments have moved to community policing, and yet there still is no formal accepted method of teaching this type of policing. Is that type of policing now incorporated into your training, and if so, what shape does it take?

ELLONEN: Itís the shape of the new learning methods. You must start with problem-oriented learning. We have books from the United States which concern this problem-based learning and so on, and we try to adopt those methods in our school, in our training. Itís a way of thinking; itís not a technical question. Itís a way of thinking, of searching for information, of analyzing it. For example, in basic training, our students must do a research paper, just a small one, to show that they can handle information, analyze information, and make judgments concerning different kinds of information. That way of thinking is the tool for doing problem-oriented policing. Itís not the technical question. Itís an atmosphere, a culture. And you must start it in the training, and you have to struggle with it with those in the field, because you are giving them something new. They are the agents of change. Our Ministry has said that community policing is something you do, so in the training, we must take it, adapt to the situation and make our reports accordingly. Thatís what we are trying to do. Itís not that our training system is problem-based totally, but we take whatever we can and use it. It will take some time.

ERIKSSON: I agree with Erkki 100 percent. Community policing is a philosophy. First of all, the Finnish and the Swedish police are national police. The Ministry of Interior in Finland and Ministry of Justice in Sweden are responsible for the police. The overall philosophy for the Swedish Ministry of Justice is  that one way of reducing crime and increasing safety for the citizens is actually to try to do much more in common with them, to try to be more proactive than reactive. To be proactive, you need to find the problems and try to solve them with the rest of the community.

We have put a lot of efforts into our community policing programs. Of course we try, or have tried the last few years, also to put it into the training as much as possible. But these are some things that actually must start from the recruitment stage, where you get the right people so that they donít think, ďOh, I would like that nice uniform and a big gun and a nice car.Ē To be honest, itís a bit difficult to train young amateurs to be young professionals when they donít have any experience with the profession. They can understand what we are saying, but they donít understand how to do it, how to carry it out. Even if we would be able to train them in a very good community policing program, on the first day they are standing in the police station, their first shift, if their sergeant is not into this way of thinking, itís wasted money, itís wasted time. This is a change in culture; itís a change in methods. I donít think it helps so much to change the organization and methods so long as the philosophy is not 100 percent within the organization. The methods and the organization come automatically sooner or later.

As Erkki said, we try to find out whatís going on in other parts of the world  the United States, the U.K., Europe, wherever. But you can never steal the whole cake; you can steal a small, small piece of the cake, and then you can try to adapt it to your system. We have to fight many things here. With our government, the Parliament and our National Commissioner ringing in our ears, we have to try to change the habits and the way of thinking within the police force, and also within the rest of the community. Community policing is not a reactive kind of policing; you need assistance. You need prosecutors, courts, social workers, the whole public to take part in it. So we also have to be some kind of messenger boys in this vein. It might be that more women in the police might change the culture, which would make it easier to change attitudes sooner. We try to do what we can, but itís not just a question of training. Itís a question of thinking, and from that thinking, using your professional skills in carrying out a safe community for the public.

ELLONEN: Change happens in small steps. You can go a long way with many small steps. Itís a complicated thing; there are so many things that you canít expect youíre doing something correctly in one or two years. Slowly something happens, but itís a lot of work at the moment to make something happen in practice.

LEN: At any given time in the United States there is a major police-misconduct scandal going on somewhere. As a result, many departments are trying to incorporate preventive measures into their training, but once again, theyíre really uncertain as to how to do that. Both of you mentioned earlier that ethics represents a big chunk of your programs. Could you elaborate?

ERIKSSON: Ethics in Sweden has been very badly formulated. Sometimes during certain years it meant one thing, some other years it meant another thing. I think we are coming down to basics soon: Stop talking so much about that you should have all the buttons on the uniform closed, you should have the shoes nice, you should be behaving, saluting, etc. Thatís a way of behavior; thatís not ethics in itself. Of course, while not scandals, we have things happen in the Swedish police as well. We are trying hard to reduce the number of ďblack headlines.Ē As in all the Nordic countries, corruption is rare compared with many other countries, although, of course, we have things we could call corruption  also misbehavior, especially when high-ranked officers, to use an example, donít behave in a proper way. Sometimes itís blown up too much by the papers, by the media, but itís a wide interest for the public, and theyíre paying our salaries, so officials try to behave as well. Police and politicians, I believe, are the most popular targets.

It also gives us a certain responsibility. We are at the moment finishing quite new training in ethics for the three major police forces in Sweden: Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. Itís a pilot project. We try to see how itís received, what it may do, etc. But that is the real first effort we made in Sweden from a central level to make some kind of national program.

Of course we have ethics in our basic training. Not so much that you should be proud of your country, etc., blah, blah, blah, and not just 10 beautifully written lines  a statement without any value. There are some values in the paper, but sometimes itís high-flying.  Ethics is so much more pragmatic: How do you approach people? How do you react if you see something within your own force, within your culture that you donít agree with? How can you change your approach to the public, your approach to your colleagues, etc.? There are multi-facets here in this. We are paying it very big attention, and it also has to do with a way of acting as a professional police officer, and with human rights and human dignity. So itís a complicated question, but we are eager to improve ourselves all the time.

ELLONEN: I agree very much with what Nils says. Ethics as one word is too much. In police training we must define more precisely what is meant by it and in what connection  whether itís a question about corruption, internal things, or a question about police violence or something like that. But one thing for sure is that no more moralizing is needed. Ethics has come to the stage where it has to become more pragmatic in police training, I think. Of course, the Constitution gives the basis, but in police work, in stressful situations you have to make judgments in seconds, or in parts of seconds. So to really help policemen in the street, for example, weíre using a tape thatís situation-based and gives in a very pragmatic and clear way something to discuss later about the real police problems and judgments and so on. Thereís also lots of psychology of things there, too. One thing which is a concept of professional ethics is that you have to be a professional, and you have to be cool [laughs]. Itís not your business out there when youíre doing police work.

ERIKSSON: Iíve seen different police forces, different police training, different police jobs, different police responsibilities all over the world, but there is one thing in common, and that is to reduce fear among the public, to increase safety in society and to try to eliminate crime as much as possible. But we have different societies, and that also means that we do different kinds of policing, and different kinds of police forces or agencies or services have different kinds of responsibilities. But in the end there must be some kind of law enforcement ethics within this. I think the difference we can see is dependent on what country and how much political influence there is in daily police life. If thereís a really professional police who actually follow just the lines of the duty, who go in to do what they are trained to do and what they are asked to do, like a more self-standing body, then itís easier to keep up the high ethics. But if there is a possibility for  letís say the worst that could happen, corrupt politicians who can actually steer the police and use the police for his or her own purpose. Then you are in trouble because ethics wonít work.  I think we are fortunate in our countries that we are very, very self-standing, and we actually have written out in our Police Act that nobody can order you to do something that is not a legal thing, etc. And another thing: in Sweden, anyway, if one of our officers should misbehave in one way or another, itís not possible in our country to sue the police force. It is the officer himself or herself who will be prosecuted. So thatís also gives a pressure on the officer to behave because she or he is the person who will be blamed. Thatís the normal way. And there is not that huge money to obtain that you find in other countries.

ELLONEN: The same in Finland. Itís all so different compared to the United States.

ERIKSSON: Itís a professional responsibility you are given when you are graduated as a police officer.

LEN: In the United States, a department is not usually sued for corruption, but very often is named as a co-defendant in excessive-force lawsuits. Can your departments be sued ifÖ

ELLONEN: No.

ERIKSSON: No.

LEN: Itís always the officer who would get sued?

ELLONEN: Itís always the officer whoís on trial.

ERIKSSON: Yes.

LEN: It might solve a lot of the problems in the United States if an officer thought that he or she was going to be personally liable, rather than the department.

ERIKSSON: Iíve seen a few instruction videos in other countries where it goes out to show police officers when and how to use force. We have the same interactive things where you shoot the laser beam, but we actually try to teach the officer not to shoot, because there are other ways of solving the problem. But it comes back to what I said before, about differences in our way of behaving  first, the expectations of what the police should do and how they should solve problems. I donít say one is right and one is wrong, but sometimes we look upon the same problem from different angles.

LEN: In the States theyíre taught when to shoot, not usually when not to shoot.

ELLONEN: This matter of when not to shoot is a tactical decision you make, and the worst one is that you shoot at the wrong moment.

ERIKSSON: In our basic training, we never train our students to shoot to kill. In the 34 hours of shooting training they get, it is to shoot to stop, and that means that normally we try to shoot below the belt. When they have to react in a tenth of a second, thatís where they should be aiming. It doesnít say that they are not allowed to shoot above the belt, but then it must be acceptable conditions.

The police in Sweden use their guns, I would guess, about 30 times a year. Shooting people by mistake has taken place about once every third year, something like that. If you look at the reality, I would guess we could use the gun 500 times more from the legal point of view. But we donít do it. I see that as a result of good training. We actually have the right; we wouldnít be blamed if we shot. But we donít do it.

LEN: The police chiefs we speak with on a regular basis say that a serious problem with their officers is their inability to write well, to write good reports that will stand up in court, and that their officers donít communicate in an articulate manner. In addition, many departments in the U.S. have adopted the practice known as Verbal Judo to train officers how to get someone to obey commands without resorting to cursing or bullying or anything like that. Do you have similar kinds of problems?

ELLONEN: This is not a problem at the same level in Finland. Because police reports must be precise, we have intensified training; they write form reports and must be careful because they are public documents, and itís very important that policemen make good reports. And, of course, communication skills is part of that. We use Verbal Judo in situations where we have too many people. And police must be able to handle so many situations, that you need that skill. But you need the use of communication skills, too.

LEN: Prosecutors frequently complain that they canít go ahead with a case because the reports are written so badlyÖ.

ELLONEN: Itís very important; itís a professional skill that a policeman has to have, to make a precise report.

ERIKSSON: If you compare how many times you use your pen to how many times you use your stick or your gun, you should be at least as skilled in using the pen. You have this yearly rehearsal in using your gun and your stick, but they never rehearse the use of the pen. We have the problem with the people we recruit, to be able to write in a good way, to be able to give a report that actually tells what happens: who saw what, who said what, was it the officer who saw it, or was it a witness who saw it?

Itís not just a problem in our countries. Iíve spoken to colleagues in other European countries, and itís still the same. Iíve spoken to people outside the police, in the universities, and they are complaining that the students coming to the universities have the same lack in writing and even reading. Our students normally speak at least one foreign language when they start with us. Most or all of them speak English when they come, and then we try to improve with some specialized English. Theyíre not especially good in Swedish, and if youíre not good in your mother tongue, that is a problem.

LEN: In a similar vein, the United States ended the military draft about 20 years ago, and since that time many police officials have complained about a lack of maturity on the part of those that are now being hired because they do not have a military background. Is there a similar phenomenon in evidence in Sweden or Finland?

ERIKSSON: In the í50s and í60s, many police officers had a military background. It has slowly been reduced in Sweden, especially in the last year. We have a draft system in Sweden, so all those we recruit more or less have done military service in one way or another. If youíre talking about problem-oriented policing, there might be problems with people who are trained in a good, professional way to not react as if they were still in military uniform, as far as responding to threats by using force. I donít say they have a problem, but there is a risk that could happen. Instead, as I said earlier, we try to recruit people from various backgrounds. And then we have 25 percent female  I hope they increase that number at the college  which means that they soften up the situation as well.

We donít like the macho type of police officers; we donít ask for that. Some, of course, are developed to be that kind of person. Many of them donít pass because if they behave in a way that we donít think is appropriate during the three-year training period, we have a possibility to get rid of them if they misbehave. I donít say that this might have to do with military training, but the Swedish police force is very different from the military; they have different responsibilities. We need problem-solvers who do it in a good way, so the discipline is needed more for the police officers. But there are different kinds of discipline. Itís very easy for the chiefs to say why all these novices lack discipline: ďIt was much better in the í50s when we could ask them to march until they die!Ē But why should they march? We donít have drill, for example. We donít need the drill. We learn how to walk in tactical formations, but we donít have parades and drills because in the future they will refuse to pay money for training and to march for hours on an exercise field. I know there are people who say that itís good because they then learn to do things together. That group will, perhaps, but they will then be spread out all over Sweden. So the Swedish philosophy is that discipline comes through ethics and not through the military.

ELLONEN: In Finland, we have general military service for young men, so everyone has military training. And from what I have seen, itís very rare that is has been a disadvantage. No problem, no problem. So discipline is really taught in the same way   as an ethical question.

LEN: Weíve been discussing mostly basic training. Could we talk for a moment about command training?

ERIKSSON: Itís not so much command training, but what we have done  I donít know about the future, but so far the basic training is generalist training. If we need some kind of special discipline, which might be needed during special types of operations, thatís a part of training for those people selected for those task forces.

ELLONEN: In a country like Finland, a small country of 5 million people, we know each other. We know that this one fits here, this one goes there, if there is some kind of a special ability.

LEN: In the United States there is little of what we call command training, the kind that will prepare an officer to take on a very high rank. And often, if you are selected to attend such a training program, the selection might be based on whom you know rather than what you know. How is training at this level handled in your countries?

ELLONEN: In Finland, we have a new system concerning special training for the chiefs, and it will be open now for a constable. When he starts he can be a chief constable, and he can have a university degree as a background.

LEN: He needs the degree first before he can go into your training?

ELLONEN: Yes. He gets the degree and then he can apply. Usually those people are chiefs or district heads  at the moment. It will change a little. And also all those people who have university degrees can apply to the system. Itís a long training; four years to have all that training.

ERIKSSON: For us this special training is not done in the universities, although itís very closely tied to the academic. At the beginning of next year there will be a national police college where all this will happen. At the moment we are two separate training units, but it will be one beginning next year. All will happen in that structure.

LEN: You want to keep this training in-house?

ELLONEN: Yes, the police in Finland have been able to keep it very much in their own hands. Of course weíre open, but we want to keep the professional things within the police.

ERIKSSON: I donít want to sound pessimistic, but thereís a huge difference between what is called a chief of police in the United States, and the head of a police force in Sweden. There are different responsibilities, and different ways of doing things. The Swedish chief of police is a civil servant. He doesnít answer to anyone except the National Commissioner, more or less. The Ministry of Justice cannot order him or her to do anything. Theyíre not financed by the local government; theyíre financed by the national government.

It also depends on what you mean by high command post. If you take the chief of police, itís the same as in Finland: You have to have a law degree to have the rank of department superintendent and above; then you can work within this career. You can sometimes be the head of the police, but you can also be the third deputy in another force. Weíre not that rank-structured; where you work depends on what we have from one time to another. But those who donít have a law degree so far havenít been allowed into the chief of police career, so we try to have our colleges give management courses for them. We donít say that these must be lieutenant or captain or something like that; itís up to the local chief to decide who she or he wants to send to this. They know what the course is about; itís about a six- or seven-week course, and you go home and do some work and you come back, etc. Thatís good for the middle management. For the top management, for the chief of police career  we are also reviewing that one, but it has been that you have a two-month special training at the police college where we give most of the law principles and the special police regulations, etc. Then you go out for a practice in society, with the courts, the prosecutorís office, the police force, the administrative court  and that is for a period of almost two years. We bring them back for four months to have special training in management and police administration, etc. Then they graduate as a superintendent. What we are now discussing is how to let the young officers to make a career within the system, to let them move up. We donít know if Parliament is willing to skip the need to have a law degree. If they donít, we have to give them some kind of legal qualification anyway. In the Swedish police, the head of the police has to make all kind of legal decisions, not only with the staff, but also with buildings, with the hiring and firing of people. We donít normally have lawyers employed; we have that on the national level, but not the county level. So there is need for legal expertise.

LEN: With the formation of the European Union, and the political and economic changes it will bring, what sort of developments are occurring with respect to law enforcement? For example, can the police from one country go across a border to conduct a search in another country? What language would you use for emergency communications? For that matter, is a common radio frequency planned for police communications? In general, do you foresee changes with broad and deep implications, or merely superficial changes?

ERIKSSON: I wish I knew the answers to those questions. Nobody knows yet. Itís still very, very difficult. The first step you see in police cooperation is called Europol, in The Hague, which is an intelligence-gathering center. There has always been good cooperation between the police forces, but this is a way to regulate it. We have conventions or agreements between the police forces,  but we donít normally have police operations go from one country to another.

The language that will be spoken is normally your own language; most countries, in middle Europe anyway, are bilingual. I know they have some problems with the channel between U.K. and France, so they train the police on both sides, and they have a computerized system with which they speak to each other. But there are a lot of efforts going on. In police training, we are trying to support each other with language courses, etc. Of course, we are always one step behind the criminals, because the borders go down and the criminals can go from one side to another. Itís no problem for them, but for the police itís a problem.

ELLONEN: This European Union is a new thing for us; we are only members from the beginning of this year. A problem with the E.U. is that it takes manpower. People must travel to Brussels, to Germany, to Italy, to everywhere. Plus, they have to do their work at home. Thatís one problem. Generally, all police feel  Iíve heard them say that this is a bit frustrating because nothing happens. You take a two-day trip that is very demanding, you have to fly home by night, make reports and so on, but you donít get any results because there are so many participants, everyone wants to say something about this and that and the other thing. So it will give results slowly. There are lots of good starting points, good agreements and so on, and in the long run itís good for the police in Europe if they have personal contacts, if they get to know each other.

ERIKSSON: For example, in June we had in Stockholm all the heads of European police training at the annual conference for the European Union. And out of this conference comes a lot of things, but especially a police atlas with a schedule of police forces in Europe, and a language lexicon. So thereís a lot of things going on  the Shengen Agreement, for instance. Itís an agreement about the border patrols, how to use a computer net to check whoís going here and going there. Itís just in seven countries so far. But anyway, I think that if police cooperation in Europe doesnít increase, we will be the losers from the law enforcement perspective. So we have to find a way to cooperate in balance with the national interest as well. I donít think we will have a European police task force that is operational in different countries, like the FBI or something like that. But still, policing in Europe is very different. You cannot compare policing in Greece and policing in Denmark; itís two different things.

ELLONEN: What is important now, in my opinion, is this police college cooperation which started up about a year ago. There might be something coming with that in the long run.

ERIKSSON: They also had something called the Association of European Police Colleges. Itís not on the political level; itís just between the colleges, which also will increase our possibilities to train police officers in different countries, to open up courses, arrange seminars  especially with further training. There will be no homogenization of the training, I donít believe. To me itís not necessary.

ELLONEN: Anyway, with this cooperation, one thing is that we learn from each other, and thatís the main point. Thatís my hope, that when you get to know people from different countries, you get some kind of perspective on your own thing, too. You canít, perhaps, steal the whole cake, as Nils said, but you can take some pieces and keep some pieces, too.

people nation | home

Subscribe.
Published in Law Enforcement News
Nov. 15, 1996.
© 1996, LEN Inc.