The National Police Board has announced that it will update its guidelines on deaths in police custody and investigate new technological solutions for improving safety in custody. Above all, the police organisation intends to focus on improving its operations in relation to custody in 2020. Legislation will also undergo development.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s initiative revealed areas in need of improvements
The reports that are now being obtained are a continuation of the investigation into deaths in police custody which the Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen began on his own initiative. In decision 4103/2016, issued in July 2019, he called upon the National Police Board to improve its monitoring of deaths in police custody, among other things. The report revealed that the National Police Board kept no precise statistics on the numbers of deaths in custody. In addition to statistical data, it would be important to analyse cases in order to obtain information that could prevent deaths in police custody and be used in training for police officers and security guards. The Ombudsman also focused on several areas in which the legislation needs to be improved. He asked the National Police Board, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Office of the Prosecutor General to report on the measures they have taken to remedy the matter.
Many upcoming reforms
The reports that have now been obtained concur with the Ombudsman’s views. The National Police Board announced several measures, including updating its guidelines on deaths in police custody to ensure that information is provided, and investigating new technological solutions for improving safety in custody. Above all, the police intends to focus on improving its procedures in relation to custody in 2020. The Prosecutor General has also reviewed her guidance on the prosecutor’s role in investigating deaths in police custody. According to the Ministry of Justice, projects to reform the Criminal Investigation Act and the Coercive Measures Act will begin this year and will involve assessing the prosecutor’s role in investigating deaths in police custody, including cases where a person dies or is severely injured as a consequence of the use of force by the police. Reforms of the Act on the Treatment of Persons in the Custody of the Police and the Act on Determining the Cause of Death are currently underway, and the Ombudsman’s positions will also be taken into consideration as a part of these reforms.
Decision 4103/2016 (in Finnish) by Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen is available in full in Finnish on the Ombudsman’s website www.oikeusasiamies.fi.
Links to the reports (in Finnish) by the National Police Board, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
For further details on this matter, contact Juha Haapamäki, Principal Legal Adviser, on +358 9 432 3334.