How We Work Against Ethnic/Racial Profiling

Photo: Bildkoll/Mostphotos

Ethnic/racial profiling is a reality and a problem in many countries. In Sweden, the issue has played a central role in several well-known events, including the riots in Husby in 2013 and the register of Roma by the Skåne police. Civil Rights Defenders has been working for several years to monitor the issue and influence the police and politicians to strengthen the work against ethnic/racial profiling. Here you can read more about what we do.

What is ethnic/racial profiling?

Ethnic/racial profiling means using perceived ethnicity, religion or skin colour as a selection criterion, for example when being singled out by the police to be stopped at a checkpoint. It is also about the police work being conducted in ways that it affects certain groups negatively, for example by focusing resources on certain types of crimes or certain geographical areas.

Despite the lack of systematic research on the subject, there is little doubt that ethnic/racial profiling exists. This was made clear during the so-called Reva inspections, which were carried out by the Swedish Police with the aim to improve the efficiency of the deportation of the undocumented. This was the core of the register of Roma by the Skåne police and it is also a permanent part of the work against terrorism, which sometimes leads directly to wrongful identifications of innocent people.

Individuals belonging to minority groups repeatedly testify to being exposed to ethnic/racial profiling by the police.

Why is ethnic/racial profiling a problem?

Ethnic/racial profiling is illegal and in violation of the European Convention as well as the Constitution of Sweden. It is discriminatory and it violates human rights.

It is offensive to the individual and it negatively affects society as a whole. Public confidence in the police authority is shattered, resulting in the police having difficulties carrying out its work – solving crimes and protecting people.

International research also shows that ethnic/racial profiling as a method is an inefficient way of working to solve crimes. It is important to emphasize that it affects many innocent people who committed no crime.

How do Civil Rights Defenders work against ethnic/racial profiling?

For several years, Civil Rights Defenders has advocated towards the police and politicians to strengthen the work against ethnic/racial profiling. Together with Stockholm University, we produced Randomly Selected – the first report in Sweden to examine ethnic/racial profiling in a broader sense. It is based on interviews with police officers as well as individuals who have been subjected to profiling.

On several occasions, we have met with representatives from the police management, the Swedish Police Union and the government to discuss the issue and strengthen the work against profiling. We have also held seminars to spread knowledge and encourage a discussion.

In June, we arranged meetings with the Swedish Police Union, Mikael Damberg, the Minister for Home Affairs Mikael Damberg and Åsa Lindhagen, Minister for Gender Equality, with responsibility for anti-discrimination and anti-segregation. The meetings were attended by representatives from the police in the UK and Spain, who have positive experiences of working against profiling. We have also invited experts who shared successful examples of how trust between the police and the public can be strengthened by working against profiling. Now, we are working towards carrying out the same meetings with the police management during this fall.

With the meetings, we want to increase the knowledge within the police management and, through good examples of how to work against ethnic/racial profiling, inspire the police to start working with the issue.

How do we work with those affected?

The report Randomly Selected, produced by Stockholm University on behalf of Civil Rights Defenders, is based on in-depth interviews with Afroswedes, Muslims and Roma. The work on the report was reviewed by a reference group, consisting of representatives from various organisations working against, for example, Afrophobia and anti-Gypsyism. Together with the report’s author, the criminologist Leandro Schclarek Mulinari, the reference group met several times for a continuous dialogue. Many of the representatives in the reference group have personal experiences of being exposed to profiling.

What do we want to change?

The police must start seeing ethnical/racial profiling as a structural problem that needs to be solved by changing structures within the police, for example by reviewing and changing working methods. The police management must take the issue seriously. Attitudes and working methods need to change from the top down. We also want the government to give The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention the task of reviewing the work of the police as well as giving The Swedish Police Authority the task of developing new working methods to avoid discrimination.

In addition, individuals subjected to discrimination must be able to obtain redress, for example by amending the Discrimination Act so that police actions are also covered by the law.

It is important that Sweden has a police force with working methods that don’t lead to discrimination.

Read more

Here you can read more about the report Randomly Selected.

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