Finnish police committed to improving domestic violence detection
Physical violence is easy to recognise, because of the visible marks it leaves on the body. However, police officers and other frontline workers often struggle to correctly identify other forms of abuse.
It’s important to recognise that psychological, sexual, financial and spiritual abuse can be associated not only with physical violence and honour-based violence, but also stalking, digital harassment and other types of mistreatment,” explains superintendent Pekka Heikkinen from the National Police Board of Finland.
According to Heikkinen, non-physical forms of abuse are particularly challenging to identify, as the victim may not be in a position to assist the police with their investigation.
“It may be that the victim finds themselves under the perpetrators control to such a degree that they do not even realise that they are being subjected to domestic violence. And even when the victim is aware that what is being done to them is wrong, the perpetrator’s threatening behaviour may leave them unable to disclose what is happening.”
Early intervention is essential in cases of domestic violence.
“What we need to do is show the perpetrator that their actions are unacceptable and wrong. But in order to be able to do that, all the relevant agencies must be committed to working together,” Heikkinen points out.
Improvements to domestic violence training for police
A new handbook on identifying, tackling and preventing domestic violence has been published.
Produced as part of a collaboration between the Police University College and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health-funded MARAC project, the handbook is aimed at all police officers who come into contact with domestic violence in the course of their work and offers advice and guidance on how domestic violence can be identified and tackled.
The Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) is a method that has been developed to share information between agencies on the highest risk domestic abuse cases.
The handbook is aimed both at police trainees and serving officers.
“What this handbook means is that all the relevant information on domestic abuse is now available in one place. It has been written with a multi-disciplinary approach in mind and highlights the importance of effective information sharing and collaboration within the police service. It lends itself to independent study but will also be used as the basis for formal training offered by police forces in Finland,” said Satu Rantaeskola, Senior Lecturer at the Police University College.
Handbook part of wider action
According to Superintendent Heikkinen, the handbook forms part of wider action being taken by the Finnish police service on violence prevention, including promoting greater understanding and knowledge of domestic abuse and violence against women.
“The MARAC project which we ran in 2021 resulted in this handbook as well as other practical tools that can be used to tackle domestic abuse. The project was also an opportunity for us to have a closer look at how domestic violence prevention is currently working within the police service.”
The MARAC report encompasses five key areas: police attitudes and actions taken during surveillance and incident response activity, the importance of allocating criminal investigations to staff with the appropriate specialist training, developing better risk assessment methods, specialist training and the development of service provision and statistical data gathering.
“We recognise that when it comes to tackling violence and protecting vulnerable victims, there is still room for improvement within the police service. This new handbook is a one of the practical ways in which we are seeking to move towards a greater and more standardised knowledge and understanding of domestic abuse. We will continue to build on our efforts with the introduction of a new national training programme, and we are also developing new professional networks and facilitating closer inter-agency working in this area. What we want to see is collaboration becoming an integral part of everything that we do,” Heikkinen says.
On a related theme, the National Police Board earlier this year published the Barnahus handbook on investigating sexual abuse and violence against children.
Training to be provided across the Finnish police service in 2022
The level of training offered by the Police University College on domestic abuse on its degree programmes has been increasing for some time, Satu Rantaeskola says.
At the start of 2022, the Police University College launched a new training programme for all police staff who deal with domestic abuse to enhance their skills in this area.
“We need to ensure that we effectively recognise domestic abuse when we witness it. And when the relevant agencies are able to intervene early, we will be in a position to make the most efficient use of the resources available to us,” Rantaeskola concludes.
The handbook is available on the police service website at Toiminnallinen käsikirja lähisuhdeväkivaltaan puuttumiseksi ja ennalta estämiseksi (poliisi.fi). (Currently available in Finnish only)
To find out more, please contact:
Pekka Heikkinen, Superintendent, National Police Board of Finland, tel: +358 (0)295 481 763, Satu Rantaeskola, Senior Lecturer, Police University College, tel: +358 (0)295 483 357