(In)convenient truth. A small-scale study addressing attitudes and values found in Finnish policing

Academic Paper 2018 21 Pages

Sociology - Law, Delinquency, Abnormal Behavior



Among popular perceptions of the Nordic countries, cleanliness, organisation and safety are common. One of the agencies responsible for the up­-keep of public safety is the Finnish police. As with the other Nordic policing organisations, this appears to be done in a calm and non-confrontational way. To discover if reality lives up to the image, a small-scale research project was conducted. This involved a series of focus groups comprising of policing personnel and was intended to gain insight into the values and attitudes of criminal justice professionals. The focus groups took the form of semi-structured interviews. Recordings and transcripts were analysed for themes that may help to understand how the professionals in question perceive their role and function in a modern policing agency.

Among the issues mentioned by the participants was a degree of frustration at the limited resources that were available to them. These points were apparently seen as irritations rather than major challenges. For the participants, issues of impartiality and motivation were consistently expressed and appeared to be of considerable relevance. In support of this, they reported achieving motivation through adherence to legal statutes and procedural protocols, and in so doing they felt that they were “doing the job properly” rather than simply “catching bad guys”. This may be the key to the non-confrontational calm of the Nordic image. These findings are corroborated by external sources as Finland’s judicial system and police organisation are internationally acknowledged as providing an impartial and trustworthy service to the population of that country.

Key Words: Examination, Investigation, Justice, Motivation, Professionalism


For some, mention of the word police officer will conjure up notions of a benign public servant, whose presence provides a sense of security. For others, a very different image comes to mind. All too often news media reports on unjustifiable acts of violence by police officers on the population they are sworn to protect and serve. Recent examples of this can be seen in the events in Catalonia in relation to an independence referendum (BBC, 2017) and the seemingly regular incidents in the United States of police shootings and other brutality (Donner, et al 2017). Less obvious, but nonetheless devastating for victims, are the miscarriages of justice brought about by poor practice and inappropriate attitudes in the forensic sciences, as discussed by Saks and Koehler (2008). Again, these incidents can be seen internationally in, for example, the infamous Madrid train bombing case where the FBI wrongfully attributed fingerprint evidence to an innocent person (Stacey, 2005). In response to events such as these, organisations like the Innocence Project, have found a steady source of employment uncovering historic miscarriages of justice and freeing wrongfully convicted people (Innocence Project, 2017).

Among the areas of the world where punitive attitudes seem to be less prevalent, and the image of the police and policing more benign in nature, is the Nordic region. Made up of Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, this region is widely recognised as socially enlightened, stable and safe, at least in comparison to some other parts of the world (Andersen & Björkman, 2016). In an attempt to discover if or why this may be the case, and to make the data collection process more manageable, this research was conducted only in relation to the Finnish police organisation and associated civilian personnel.

Superficially, there are indeed considerable similarities between a Finnish police officer and his/her less approachable counterparts in other parts of the world. The Finnish police are armed, uniformed officers wear a distinctive blue uniform and in extreme circumstances they have access to coercive measures and SWAT teams. However, the similarities seem to be outweighed by something considerably less tangible. In order to discover if the image has any connection to reality, the research focus would need to be elsewhere. To this end, consideration was given to the possibility that contributing factors could potentially be attitudinal in origin. Perhaps there was something about the way policing professionals in Finland perceive their role that is in turn affecting not only their public image but general feelings of public safety.

In order to access this avenue of investigation, a small-scale qualitative study involving direct access to policing professionals was conducted. This was done with the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Forensic Laboratory, detectives from the NBI and scene of crime officers from a police department in the south of Finland. In an attempt to access the attitudes and values of individuals involved in the policing processes, a series of focus groups were organised. The intention was to gather primary data and access the findings according to grounded theory and allow the data to direct the resulting discussion rather than address a stated hypothesis. It was immediately apparent that this was an appropriate approach to this research as the focus groups were considerably more productive than had been anticipated, with all participants contributing to the discussions in a confident and open manner. During the discussions, volunteer participants were asked to express their thoughts and opinions in relation to a selection of discussion topics. In order to ground this research in established theory, the analysis of focus group interaction and subsequent discussion section will include references to a variety of relevant source literature.

As this was qualitative research, and consisted of only four focus groups, the findings will not be generalisable; nonetheless, the results may provide an insight into how Finnish policing professionals think about the work they do. This in turn may have highlighted some conceptual issues that could help to understand some of the reasons behind the image of organised calm.

The report will begin with a brief description of the choice of the data collection method that was used for this research project. Additionally, the ethical considerations that were taken into account before any potential participants were contacted will be addressed. This will be followed by a description of how participants were grouped and the logic behind those groupings. As the focus groups resulted in several hours of recorded discussion, the second section of this paper will take the form of a synopsis of the focus group discussions and opinions expressed by participants rather than a full report. The attitudes and values mentioned by participants will be employed in order to highlight potential explanations for the apparently benign image of policing in Finland. This will be followed by a discussion section, where further consideration will be given to influences raised during the discussions that may, in turn, help to explain some of the findings, while other points are intended to provide a degree of perspective to the issues reported here. Finally, the conclusion section will draw this report to a close and will include suggestions for possible further research on this subject.


The goal of this research was to gain an understanding of how policing professionals in Finland feel about the work that they do and how those attitudes might impact on perceptions of what they do. As a result, it was decided that the richness of data that this study required would best be achieved by spending time with participants and listening to their ideas and comments. To this end, focus groups were considered to be the most appropriate method of data collection that would potentially provide the desired insight into the attitudes and values in the Finnish policing professions. In planning the make-up of the groups, consideration was given to the type of material that may be discussed and the personal and emotional security of participants as mentioned by Morgan (2011). It was decided that, as recommended by DiCicco-Bloom and Crabtree (2006), in this situation small homogeneous groups would provide opportunities for all participants to express their opinions and contribute to the conversation. This resulted in one group of forensic laboratory examiners, the second group were non-operational administrative staff, group three was made up of police investigators and the last group’s participants were all crime scene examiners. No demographic data was collected on the participants.

Ethical approval for this research was obtained before any contact was made with potential participants; all communication was conducted in the Finnish language (Shklarov, 2007). Among the information provided to potential participants were an introduction to the research and an invitation to participate with an assurance that participation was voluntary and anonymous with respect to any reports that would be produced (Grinyer, 2001). Absolute anonymity during the focus groups was a practical impossibility as the Finnish Police and Forensic Laboratory are relatively small organisations and group participants were known to each other. In order to save time during the focus groups, and to assist potential participants in their decision to take part or not, a list of seven points of discussion was also provided in advance.

The focus groups were conducted in the form of a semi-structured discussion as described by Gill et al. (2008). Participants were informed that the points of discussion they had been provided with were not to be considered as questions, rather as a starting point for discussion. Effort was made not to over-explain the reason for the particular subject or to bias the conversation. No financial incentives or rewards were offered as part of the invitation to participate.

Small scale combined with a restricted time period may have impacted on this research project. Four focus groups consisting of a total of seventeen participants may not be considered to be a large sample size. However, according to Guest et al. (2017), it may be possible to access 80%-90% of themes with three to six groups. Admittedly, their suggested group sizes were slightly larger than those described here. However, the population size of policing professionals in Finland is also rather limited.

The findings reported on here are the product of a manual analysis of the focus group recordings in the original language in combination with the English translation. Although laborious, this enabled considerable insight into the views expressed by participants.

The following section will provide a synopsis of the major themes discussed by the focus group participants. The points addressed by participants are listed below numbered 1-7.


1. What is a good result?

It had been assumed by the researcher that in response to this point of discussion the participants would be orientated towards a binary conclusion to their investigation/examination results. However, rather than expressing a desire for high conviction rates and long prison sentences, the participants in this study presented a considerably more sophisticated set of values. Among the views voiced by the focus group participants were that all examination/investigation outcomes, including results that lead to the exoneration of a suspect, have equal value. According to a report produced by Tippets (2013), this attitude is not as self-evident as it would seem.

Another response from the participants was that an often-forgotten investigation outcome is that no crime has been committed. This was in addition to the acknowledgment that at times it is necessary to accept that it has not been possible to clarify what has happened and that this, in turn, leads to an inconclusive result. It seemed particularly important to some of the participants to point out that, if all aspects of an examination/investigation have been conducted properly, an inconclusive result can be more readily accepted than may otherwise be the case.

Some participants expressed an awareness of the police being considered to have a prosecutor bias such as that discussed by Ask and Granhag (2007) and Tippets (2013). Participants explained that they are bound by law to perform their tasks in an impartial way, taking all possible alternatives into account. Indeed, there was a suggestion that there is an element of professional pride to be gained from knowing that everything has been done according to the rules and that by working in this way examiners/investigators can reduce the risk of errors in their work. Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of these findings was not that there is an understanding of the need for impartiality, but rather the apparent readiness to comply with standard working protocols and an understanding of the value that brings.

There was, however, an apparent perception on the part of the participants that prosecutors, although part of the same judicial process, have a different set of priorities and values to those of examiners and investigators. It was felt that prosecutors require timely, clearly stated information that will allow them to move forward with a case. For them, perhaps, the binary approach may be more of a reality. It was not possible to confirm this assumption as no prosecutors were invited to take part in this study.

In contrast to the attitudes expressed by the participants in this study, policing professionals in the United Kingdom would appear to have rather less accepting attitudes towards bureaucracy (Barry, 2010). According to Barry (2010), rather than being considered to be a working routine aimed at improving quality and efficiency, bureaucracy was considered to hobble the police officer in his/her pursuit of the criminal fraternity. It would appear that there is a very different understanding between policing professionals in Finland and the United Kingdom of the utility of accurate documentation in the criminal justice system. Another issue that came to the fore in this part of the discussions was the perhaps surprising notion that examiners/investigators have no interest in the judicial outcome of the cases they have worked on. This suggestion may be linked to what Herzberg (2002) was discussing in his writings on worker motivation. He suggested that money and good working conditions are not enough to motivate an employee in the long term. Rather, interesting and challenging work was found to be the most efficient motivator (Herzberg, 2002).

2. Do all members of the criminal investigation process have the same understanding of what a good result is?

As the forensic laboratory in Finland is staffed by civilian personnel performing very specific tasks, it was assumed by the researcher that there would be a clear demarcation between the values of forensic laboratory personnel and those of police officers, perhaps with the crime scene examiners and administrative personnel somewhere between the two. The assumption was that forensic examiners would be very conservative and the police investigators more goal-orientated in their attitudes. Rather unexpectedly, this turned out not to be the case. As with the first point of interest, the general comments were remarkably homogeneous, although not necessarily verbalised in the same way. Among the issues mentioned were an understanding that various stages of an examination/investigation may involve differing priorities (Riboux et al 2006). It was, however, stressed that the ultimate goals of impartiality and professionalism were the same throughout the system. The examination/investigation process was described by one group as a chain with each link in the chain being an independent element of the whole process. There seemed to be a common understanding that if any part of the process is not conducted according to protocols, the whole criminal justice system may suffer in the long run. Comments such as these would indicate an acceptance of difference while asserting a commitment to quality and impartiality.

One of the more outlying issues that came up in this section was the concern expressed by laboratory staff suggesting that at times investigators have unrealistic expectations of examination outcomes. Similar sentiments were expressed by crime scene examiners in relation to prosecutors. Laboratory personnel noted that such misunderstandings have lessened as communication and documentation have improved over time. For Stone (2004), good communication is the key to efficiency. Considering the diversity of roles represented in the focus groups it was particularly surprising to discover the level of similarity in these responses. There is perhaps the possibility that the participants had wanted to represent the organisation they work for in a flattering light, and to that end had attempted to tell the researcher what they thought he would want to hear or possibly refrain from expressing ideas thought to be unacceptable to the group (Barbour, 2007). It would, however, seem unlikely that four separate groups would mention such similar values if there was no substance to the comments. Additionally, not all of the issues mentioned would necessarily be considered to be positive in nature. There were, for example, two separate mentions of an apparently similar communication/expectation conflict. It could be argued that the fact that participants were prepared to discuss negative aspects of their work place would tend to add credence to the more positive points raised.

3. Possible weak links…

It was the researcher’s expectation that this point would potentially be rather divisive in nature. It had been assumed that when participants were discussing weakest links, there would be a degree of finger pointing and criticism of others, as conventional group theory would suggest (Tajfel and Turner, 1979). This had been done in an attempt to provoke participants into talking about possible shortcomings in the examination/investigation processes in Finland. Again, the groups’ responses were quite different from what had been expected.

Issues that seemed to be of particular concern to some of the participants were in effect a continuation from the previous section, communication and misunderstandings. It was suggested that these issues in turn could lead to unrealistic expectations further down the line. This would appear to concur with Stone (2004). Among the potential problems that can arise from these communication difficulties were issues such as inappropriate contextual information being provided to the laboratory personnel. It was understood that investigators were trying to be helpful, but were not realising that non-relevant information can negatively impact on forensic examination results (Dror et al. 2006).

It was accepted that human error is likely to be the area of greatest concern in relation to this point. Some participants suggested that the best way to deal with such issues is to cultivate a constructive atmosphere for professionals to learn from their mistakes and to ensure that management does not become judgmental and punitive when errors occur (Wu et al 1991). It was also noted that, as stated earlier, proper documentation from crime scene to court room would help with the implementation of such working practices. This was a broadly but not universally held belief; however, some participants felt that the levels of documentation already in place were more than sufficient. Additionally, it was stated that even the tightest of quality assurance systems cannot totally eliminate misunderstandings and human error.

Although it was acknowledged that levels of communication were improving, there was concern that interaction with the forensic laboratory had become overly restricted. It was commonly felt that such contact was a valuable opportunity to add to skill sets and knowledge. Finally, some participants felt dissatisfaction with the current requirements for personnel to become what they regarded as generalists, rather than develop skills in a specialist field.

This was a particularly interesting section as it demonstrated an awareness of areas where improvement could be made in the organisation. This may be an example of the engaged employee phenomenon (Markos and Sridevi, 2010), where employees feel a personal responsibility for the success and development of the employer. The main thrust of the conversation was focused on non-judgemental discussion when errors occur and allowing errors to become learning opportunities. Indeed, it was felt that by approaching errors in a non-confrontational way personnel would be more likely to self-report rather than hide problems (Gronewold et al, 2013). The participants seemed to be of the opinion that such an attitude would improve the quality of the results provided to the end user.

4. Are we/can we all pull in the same direction?

This point of discussion was intended to highlight any understandings of systemic differences in working practices within the policing agencies. It had been expected that the forensic personnel would express opinions closely connected to the role they perform in the judicial system as described by, for example, The European Network of Forensic Institutes (ENFSI), Best Practice Manual for Fingerprint Examination (ENFSI, 2015), and that police investigators would perhaps be more stereotypically goal-orientated in their approach. The resulting conversation quickly reverted back to an earlier point in relation to common goals. As a result, some potentially important points did arise and the fact that participants returned to similar points would suggest that these issues were of importance to them.

Among these issues was the belief in the impartiality of the Finnish judicial system. Considerable emphasis was given to the importance of impartiality and professionalism. It was, however, noted by some participants that when a case is presented to the court, the prosecutor and defence will have their own interpretations of the information provided to them, but that ultimately, they would have a common goal. From the context in which this point was mentioned it was assumed that the common goal was an impartial judicial outcome.

Participants pointed out that examination/investigation reports presented to the court system were a combination of a variety of findings rather than a consensus of opinion. This group mentioned that criminal examination/investigation is a multi-layered process and that each layer needs to be of a high standard in order to allow the judicial system to be confident in the reported findings. In addition to the comments mentioned here, it would seem that participants had a clear understanding of the need for an appropriate quality assurance system that helped to maintain high standards.

Perhaps the most interesting points here were, firstly, the expressed confidence in the Finnish legal system. Whereas this is interesting, it may not be overly surprising. The Finnish judicial system has been recognised as the most trusted in the world (World Economic Forum, 2016). Knowledge of this may impact on the attitudes of individuals working in that system and encourage them to maintain their internationally recognised high standards. This knowledge, in turn, may have had a biasing effect such as that mentioned by Tajfel and Turner (1979). Secondly, descriptions of how multi-layered the examination/investigation process is would seem to strengthen the argument for a sophisticated understanding of judicial process as opposed to the assumed binary notions mentioned earlier in this paper.

5. Motivation (justice/punishment of offender…)

Allowing participants to make their own assumptions as to the meaning of the points of discussion gave them the opportunity to discuss the issues that were important to them, rather than requiring them to answer questions that were important to the researcher, but had no relevance to the participants. In doing so it was hoped that any researcher bias would be mitigated (Bell, 2009). In brackets after this point of discussion are indications of the types of issues that were assumed to be motivating factors for professionals in the policing professions. This turned out not to be the case.

Some participants stated that for them motivation is achieved by concentrating on the evidence at hand and that they try not to become overly involved with any case. If this is indeed the case, this may be an indication that these individuals genuinely find their work interesting (Hezberg, 2002, Borst and Lako, 2017). For them, it is enough to perform examinations to the best of their ability. It was added that satisfaction is found in the knowledge that they have done everything possible and that it has been done in an impartial way.

For others, motivation was strongly connected to notions of professional pride (Borst and Lako, 2017). For these individuals there was a desire to understand what had happened in a particular situation rather than to apportion blame. There was also an understanding that it is possible to become over-motivated and that if this happens it is important to take a step back and reassess the situation. It was suggested that at times like these the value of a good manager is recognised as he/she will help to maintain perspective.

Another motivating factor that had not been considered in advance was continual professional development. Some participants saw every case they worked on as a new set of challenges that required an individual combination of skills. For them motivation was found in discovering what that combination was. The last motivational factor mentioned by the participants is not surprising in that it was mentioned. Rather, it was noticeable in that it was the last influence on the participants’ list of motivators. Financial reward was only mentioned as an aside and even then, not by everyone. Again, this would seem to add credence to the findings of Herzberg (2002).

Unsurprisingly, a variety of motivational factors were discussed. An issue that had not been considered before this study was that none of the motivators mentioned by the focus group participants conformed to the “catching bad guys” or “make society safer” (Crank, 2004) models that had been expected. Rather, these participants seemed to confine themselves to a perhaps more modest aspiration of professional pride in their work. This is not to suggest that they were totally altruistic, rather that they have a set of values that did not conform to stereotypes of individuals in the professions being discussed.

6. Justice (apprehension of offender/imprisonment of offender/restorative process)

It had been expected that this discussion point would work in combination with the previous one. The intention was to highlight hidden objectives that may not have come to light so far. It was hoped that by considering notions of justice, participants may have mentioned the inevitable conclusion to some of the cases they handle. The intention was to hear how the idea of removing someone from society, potentially for a long period of time, made the participants think about their professions. As with the previous points, it was decided to let the participants express their thoughts and feelings in relation to their understanding of ”justice”, rather than to impose the researcher’s ideas on the discussion.

A point that was made by some of the participants was that there was no consideration given to notions of justice. This is not to suggest that they do not care about such things, rather that they seem to see “justice” as an issue for the trier of facts not for the police. It was stressed that these are aspects of a criminal investigation that should be of no concern to people in their professions. It was stated that, if they have done their job properly, the results of their examinations/investigations are what they are. There was an apparent understanding that, for them, justice is best served by maintaining a professional distance from the case. This would suggest an acceptance of the ENFSI recommendations (ENFSI, 2015). For some participants this point appeared to be so obvious that it was actually challenging for them to verbalise their thoughts. They seemed to be of the opinion that there are clearly defined guidelines that if broken would be picked up on by the judicial system. Some of the participants went on to say that for them one of the highest priorities and most strictly governed aspects of their work was in relation to arrest and custody of suspects. For others, impartiality and objectivity go hand in hand with notions of justice.

Indeed, it would be reassuring to think that the professionals involved in the criminal justice system are as even-handed as the participants in this study would suggest. Without a considerably larger amount of research data it may not be possible to know how reliable these findings are. However, according to the European Commission (Eurostat) (2016), the Finnish police are the most trusted police organisation in Europe.

7. Results (is there a point where effort outweighs possible results)

In an attempt to discover if Finland’s image of a calm and peaceful society with a low crime rate can actually be supported, it seemed advisable to consider the allocation of resources in relation to criminal justice. This would, no doubt, have been possible by accessing official budget figures, but as this study is concerned with the attitudes and values of policing professionals rather than quantitative data analysis, it seemed appropriate to ask participants how they felt about such things. Unlike what was seen in relation to earlier points of discussion, this time there were no surprises.

Several of the participants expressed an opinion that financial matters really should not be of concern to them, and that in a perfect world all evidence would be examined for every case. They conceded that not all judicial findings warrant the amount of resources expended on them. There was, however, a generally expressed caveat to these comments. Resources, in the participants’ opinion, could be more efficiently utilised than is currently the case. These issues are not unique to Finland. In the United Kingdom similar discussions in relation to modernisation and rationalisation are also taking place (House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, 2016-17). It remained unclear from the focus group discussions who would be qualified to decide how such rationalisation could be done.

It was also noted that there are currently inefficiencies in some aspects of criminal investigation. In addition, concern was expressed that at times lead investigators and prosecutors do things just to be on the safe side, rather than because they are of any particular use to a case, thereby potentially inappropriately allocating already stretched resources. It would seem that although there is an awareness of budgetary limitation and the need to rationalise, some participants expressed an understanding that perhaps not all aspects of the judicial system are necessarily as efficient as they could be.

The following section will be an examination of the issues addressed by the focus groups. Additionally, consideration will be given to the potential implications of the opinions discussed by the focus group participants.


During the analysis of the focus group discussions, one of the first impressions was the level of similarity in the comments made by participants. It should perhaps be borne in mind that this was, in part, an analysis of a translation. As a result, some of this effect can perhaps be assigned to the preferred terminology and vocabulary of the translator rather than a true representation of the statements of participants (van Nes, et al, 2010). However, this is unlikely to account for the repeated and consistent assertions of very similar ideas and values on the part of the group members. It could be argued that this degree of homogeneity may be an expression of participant bias involving participants expressing what they consider to be the “right” answers (Hollander, 2004). If this is indeed the case, the effect may have been exacerbated by the fact that participants were provided with points of discussion in advance. Although this was done in order to improve the chances of active participation, it may also have provided an opportunity for participants to consider what would be considered to be “good” input to the focus groups. This is not to suggest that any form of deceit was intended, rather it may simply have been a desire to present their professions in a good light (Hollander, 2004). This could, perhaps, be seen as an expression of in-group activity with group members assimilating standardised values (Charman, 2017), and suppressing their own. There is, however, the possibility that the participants were genuinely articulating common values in relation to their professions. Rather than this necessarily being considered a negative outcome, there is an argument that there are positive advantages to group homogeneity. According to Powell (1990), homogeneous groups communicate more efficiently and display higher levels of group trust than is seen in diverse populations.

As the focus groups were conducted in a semi-structured discussion format, a variety of subjects were addressed. Superficially, these ranged from possible issues with communication and the perception of unrealistic expectations on the part of other departments to the impact of limited resources on the criminal justice system. On closer examination, however, a thematic thread seemed to run throughout the focus group discussions. This was the notion of impartiality. In itself, this should not be of particular significance; impartiality is, after all, a basic tenant of forensic science and policing (Rennison, 2011, College of Policing, 2014). It would, however, appear that impartiality was of particular significance to the focus group participants. Indeed, there were multiple mentions of the issue as a major motivator and contributing factor to their feelings of work satisfaction. Notable by its absence was any mention on the part of the participants of any kind of adversarial approach to their various professions. Rather it would seem that they approach their duties with a restrained procedural attitude. This measured approach to policing may in some part explain the image of societal stability. If police officers consider themselves to be public servants rather than crime fighters, and the general public’s interaction with policing professionals is informal and relaxed, there may be less opportunity for confrontation and discontent.

In order to discover if such an apparently enlightened approach to policing can be a reality, it may be useful to consider where such attitudes originate. Among the arguments to support the notion is that the policing organisations are, by most standards, rather small. The Finnish Police currently has around 7500 sworn officers serving a population of five million people (The Finnish Police, 2016). The small number of sworn officers may enable the police governing body to monitor performance and disseminate updated operational requirements more easily than would be the case in larger organisations. For operational reasons, the Finnish Police are organised into regional departments. The National Bureau of Investigation provides support to all of the regions in the event of large-scale and serious crimes. The only forensic laboratory in Finland is the NBI Forensic Laboratory (Poliisi, n.d.). As may be the case with the police, having only one national forensic laboratory may allow for a level of quality management that would be very difficult in larger organisations. Finnish society as a whole values high standards of education and the police organisation is no exception (The Police University College, 2017a). All graduating police cadets hold a minimum of a Bachelor of Police Services degree from The Police University College (The Police University College, 2017b), with some going on to attain a Master’s degree in Police Services (The Police University College, 2017c). Additionally, Finnish police officers, as is the case with the rest of the population, tend to be multilingual. This in turn may contribute to wider communication skills than may be found in other jurisdictions.

Further credence may be given to the findings reported here by considering Finnish political history and the structure of the Finnish judicial system. For around seven hundred years Finland formed part of the Swedish empire. The Swedish effect can still be seen in the Finnish judicial codes. During this time Finland also maintained links with academia in other European countries such as France and Germany. Indeed, some influences of this interaction can still be seen in the Finnish legal system today. In 1809 Finland was ceded to Russia and became known as the Grand Duchy of Finland, gaining full independence in 1917. According to the Finnish Ministry of Justice web site (Ministry of Justice, 2011), it was Finland’s reliance on the rule of law that helped to maintain a level of self-determination during the “russification” period (Ministry of Justice, 2011). It could perhaps be argued that these historical influences may be affecting how Finns understand the rule of law to this day, and what is expected of the policing services. Independent testimony as to the performance of the Finnish judicial system can be found in the World Economic Forum web site (2016), where statistics show that Finland has the most independent Judiciary in the world. According to Eurostat, the statistical analysis agency of the European commission, Finland also has the most trusted police service in Europe (2017). This would seem to suggest that there is indeed reason to take the reported attitudes and values seriously.

This attempt to gather data related to police investigators’ and forensic examiners’ understanding of their roles in the criminal justice system may have been flawed in some respects. Assumptions were made in relation to focus group homogeneity that turned out not to be the case. And indeed, the sample size was small. However, the data gleaned from the focus groups was remarkably consistent in its message of impartiality and professionalism. There may be a temptation to brand these findings as too good to be true. However, World Economic Forum (2017) and Eurostat statistics (2016) would appear to give credence to these research findings, in that their findings also provided a remarkably positive image of the Finnish policing and judicial systems. Perhaps the (in)convenient truth is that the Finnish Policing organisations could indeed be as good as they say they are, and that a non-confrontational approach coupled with good quality training and impartiality are contributing factors in the Nordic societal calm. It is perhaps important to point out that this study was not intended as a report on the quality of work done by the organisations in question, rather it was an examination of the attitudes and values of the individuals involved.

Taken in isolation, these findings may however have limited relevance. In order to provide perspective, it is suggested that further research is required. This may involve extending the research mentioned in this paper and the collection of a larger data set in relation to Finnish policing. Alternatively, a comparative study of the Finnish and another, similarly sized, policing organisation serving a similar population may be informative as to the prevalence of the attitudes and values described here.


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ISBN (Book)
File size
527 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Portsmouth – Institute of Criminal Justice Studies
Examination Investigation Justice Motivation Professionalism




Title: (In)convenient truth. A small-scale study addressing attitudes and values found in Finnish policing