There is one place in Finland that plays a critical role in particularly demanding police tasks – the Helsinki command centre supervises and is ready 24/7
The southern command centre in Helsinki is on standby around the clock. The centre is the place from which the police operations of the whole of Southern Finland are managed, criminal investigations initiated and particularly demanding police tasks carried out.
The daily operations of the Finnish police are managed from two command centres and eight situation centres. The command centres are located in Helsinki and Oulu.
They are on round-the-clock standby ready not only to manage the daily operations of the police, but also to launch immediate pre-trial investigations when a crime is committed.
Superintendent Patrik Karlsson, Head of the Helsinki command centre, gives an example of what kind of situations can be resolved from the command centre.
Some years ago, robbers got hold of an elderly man’s debit card and PIN code and withdrew 30,000 euros from his account. With the help of surveillance camera images and the Finnish Border Guard, it was found that the suspects had headed to the port. While the criminals were sailing towards Sweden, the command centre started to take action. It first contacted the captain of the ship, then the Swedish police and the prosecutor for a European arrest warrant.
– The command centre agreed with the ship’s captain that the apprehension team would fly to the ship by helicopter and apprehend the suspects, Karlsson says.
That is exactly what happened. After the apprehension, the ship stopped at Mariehamn, from where the suspects were taken to the police prison in Turku in cooperation with the Åland Police and the Finnish Border Guard. A total of 29,950 euros of the money was recovered. All the actions were completed in less than 12 hours.
– The case caused an extraordinary amount of work, but was carried out successfully, thanks to good national cooperation and determined action. An operation such as this was planned and implemented by the command centre alongside their other daily work, says Karlsson.
Demanding tasks are commonplace
The permanent staff of the southern command centre in Helsinki work around the clock every day of the year. The command centre is responsible for the continuous management of police operations in the Helsinki area, and the operations of eight other police departments are also managed from Helsinki five days a week.
The senior duty commanding officers, on-duty officers and operational communication experts working at the command centre are constantly on stand-by to deal with surprising and demanding situations.
The senior duty commanding officer is a civil servant of a rank that at the minimum corresponds to that of chief inspector, while the on-duty officers of the command centre are senior constables or senior sergeants. In addition, the command centre has an operational communication group consisting of communication professionals.
Besides daily police operations, the command centre manages multi-patrol tasks, large events and cooperation with the authorities. Various challenging situations are commonplace for the police. When something happens, the organisation managing the situation is not built from scratch but it already exists and can be easily commissioned.
– The size of the situation organisation is increased as needed, though even more demanding situations are commonplace for us, thanks to our experiences, Superintendent Karlsson says.
The staff of the southern command centre have solid national expertise on the operational areas of other police departments and their special areas. These include critical infrastructures.
In addition, large public events, demonstrations, serious crime or different types of accidents take place in Helsinki almost every day, which require a lot of police resources and management. Through city surveillance cameras, the command centre also has a real-time view of many of the city’s most central places.
The senior duty commanding officer decides and takes charge
At the command centre, the situation is managed by the senior duty commanding officer, who can be responsible for the general command of one or more police departments at the same time. The senior duty commanding officer leads the whole made up by the operations of the police, and all the police officers working in their area are basically under their leadership.
The senior duty commanding officer has been assigned special authority in legislation. Among others, they decide on the apprehension of suspects and searches of premises and can initiate the use of secret coercive measures, if necessary. In addition, the senior duty commanding officer at least approves the action plans and use-of-force instructions of an individual operation and supervises its legality.
The senior duty commanding officer also assesses the social significance of situations and, for example, whether ongoing situations need to be communicated to the media and citizens or information passed on to other authorities.
- With good management, operations are appropriate, resources are used efficiently and appropriately, and the desired result is reached,” says Superintendent Patrik Karlsson.
The police are the first to arrive
Competence is maintained in the police departments, and the staff of the command centre regularly participate in training and national exercises.
Particularly demanding police tasks are managed from the command centre in Helsinki, as the Helsinki Police Department has the best facilities and nationally good expertise and resources for it. The national Rapid Response Unit Karhu is also located in Helsinki.
The management of different types of rescue tasks belongs to the Rescue Department, in addition to which the Finnish Border Guard and Finnish Customs have their own separately regulated tasks. In other respects, however, the police are often the first officials to arrive on the scene and manage tasks related to maintaining safety and security and investigating crime and accidents.