Two police services criticised
Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja has in two of his decisions directed criticism at the police for taking part in investigating suspected crimes while recusable.
A Detective-Superintendent in charge of an investigation into drug offences by the Pirkanmaa police had taken part in a preliminary investigation into a suspicion that a close friend of his was involved with drugs. The then Tampere police service had been receiving tip-offs for a year before the Detective-Superintendent took it up with his superior. The superior had taken the view ? like all who had been heard in the matter − that the Detective-Superintendent's friendship with the suspect precluded his participation, as officer in charge, in the criminal investigation, which began after this.
The Ministry of the Interior's Police Department had looked into the events in the criminal investigation on the basis of news reports, but the Deputy-Ombudsman deemed it advisable to examine other aspects of the police officer's actions on his own initiative.
In Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja's view, appraisal of the information received through the tip-offs should have been entrusted to someone else from the very beginning. Something that he also found problematic was that the Detective-Superintendent had discussed the criminal investigation into the matter with, among others, the officer in charge of the investigation and made decisions on coercive measures in associated criminal investigations and that a few years later he had acted as the officer in charge in crime cases that were closely associated with new offences on the part of his friend.
In another case, an officer in charge of an investigation at the Jokilaaksot police service had looked into his own son's possible role in a drink driving case that was under investigation. He had himself asked his son and a policeman who had been at the scene about the matter and concluded that his son had done no wrong. The Deputy-Ombudsman investigated the matter on the basis of a complaint.
Pajuoja takes the view that the officer in charge of the investigation should have withdrawn from the case not later than at the point where he considered there was reason to ascertain his son?s role in the events. He could not himself decide or as the officer in charge of the investigation accept others? conclusions that his son was not involved in the case.
In neither of the criminal investigations into the cases were any shortcomings as such revealed. However, this is not of significance when appraising recusability,? the Deputy-Ombudsman points out.
Impartiality must be credible also outwardly
The aim with the recusability regulations is to prevent configurations that are sensitive to arousing suspicion between an official dealing with a matter, on the one hand, and a matter or involved party, on the other, and thereby strengthen trust in the impartiality of official actions, Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja points out.
Factual impartiality is not enough on its own. What is also important is how the arrangements surrounding an investigation look to outside eyes. In this appraisal, officials' own perceptions of their impartiality or a recusable person's formal withdrawal from handling a matter are not decisive.
The Deputy-Ombudsman finds it problematic that there are no general regulations on recusability of police officers. He informed the Ministry of the Interior of his observations for possible action in the matter.
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