Jari Kyllönen, Police Officer of the Year: True information can change young persons’ attitudes to intoxicants

Publication date 28.10.2022 10.59
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Vuoden Poliisi 2022 Jari Kyllönen Helsingin poliisilaitokselta nojaa rakennuksen pylvääseen.
Vuoden Poliisi 2022 on rikosylikonstaapeli Jari Kyllönen Helsingin poliisilaitokselta. Kuvaaja: Katja Almgren

Detective Senior Sergent Jari Kyllönen, an experienced member of the narcotics division at the Helsinki Police Department, is the Police of the Year 2022. In addition to his crime investigation work, Jari Kyllönen is a distinguished educator, actively participating, for example, in the education concerts entitled Pidä huolta! (Take care!) given by the Helsinki Police band as well as a volunteer in the association Irti Huumeista (“Free from drugs”).

- A small effort, a small piece of your life and time may help to turn somebody else’s life around, Jari Kyllönen comments on his educational work and volunteering.
The title of the Police Officer of the Year 2022 was made public 28 October 2022 in Helsinki.

This year’s theme was drug-related crime 

This year, the Police Officer of the Year theme was drug crime investigation. It is a part of policing where the outcomes are widely visible in the media and public arenas, both in terms of success stories and failures. 

Successful policing is evidenced by unmasked criminal organisations, drug confiscations, sequestrated proceeds of crime and bringing criminals to account for their deeds, not to mention the several referrals of addicts to treatment, and our preventive work. In contrast, failures in policing are demonstrated by drug use visible on the streets, increased sense of general insecurity, violent crimes and property offences as well as social and health problems which involve entire families.

Successful cooperation

At the Helsinki Police Department, Detective Senior Sergeant Kyllönen heads the drug-related investigation team of the Department’s Professional Crime function. 

He has over two decades of experience in this line of investigation, first at the Police Department of the then Espoo jurisdictional district, and at the Helsinki Police Department since the year 2001. The current responsibilities of Jari Kyllönen include the daily leading of drug-related crime investigations. 

According to the motivation of Kyllönen’s nomination as the Police Officer of the Year, he has an outstanding panoramic view of drug quantities, qualities, market, users and street trading in the Helsinki metropolitan area. 

The team under Jari Kyllönen’s leadership investigates hundreds of drug related crimes, including tens of aggravated cases of crime annually. The pretrial investigation is conducted in close cooperation with various Police and Customs authorities. 

- Owing to his extensive experience, Detective Senior Sergeant Kyllönen has excellent contacts to other investigative authorities, and he is a very well-liked person in the cooperation organisations.

Comprehensive approach

Although Jari Kyllönen’s main responsibility at the Helsinki Police Department is to investigate drug crime and bring perpetrators to justice, his approach to his work is more comprehensive.

He understand the drug users, their family members and people close to them, actively trying to operate both in his official capacity and in other roles in a way to lead these persons to the sources of care and treatment. He also provides education on drug use taking place on the streets and homes, as well as on the overall drug situation in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Attitude to drugs is increasingly positive

According to Kyllönen, the nature of drug crime has changed during his career. Drugs have become an everyday part of Finnish society.

- Earlier, drug crime was very much a form of hidden crime and the attitude to drugs and their users was negative. Today, the attitude to drugs is more positive, there are more drug users and the authorities confiscate very substantial amounts of substances. 

Problems can be solved through cooperation

In the European context, Finland leads the statistics of drug-related deaths of under-25-year-olds. The number of drug deaths has been growing throughout the first decades of the 21st century, and the costs of specialised healthcare related to drug use are increasing. 

Jari Kyllönen underlines that no one actor alone can solve these problems. The input of the Police, cities, welfare area services and the NGOs is required.

- I would very much hope that all parties involved put an effort in collaboration so that we can have a turn for the better.

Correct information can impact attitudes

Jari Kyllönen has noted that a positive attitude to drugs is also more prevalent among the young. Many young people think cannabis is a far “better” intoxicant than alcohol.

- Although the young know more about the drugs than their parents, they certainly do not know everything, and many aspects of drugs still come as a surprise.  

In fact, Kyllönen believes that true information can change the young person’s attitude to intoxicants. There is a burning need for correct information.

- I have often been asked where I draw the energy to go around and talk about drugs. My response is that if even one young person turns down an offer of drugs, I have earned my salary. 

He regrets to have a limited amount of time and not being able to take on everything.

- Earlier, we used to visit schools and give lessons but today we simply do not have the time. Concerts help us reach a large audience at one go, Jari Kyllönen adds.

Since the year 2017, Jari Kyllönen and his colleague Maija Aunio have performed together in the Pidä Huolta! (Take Care) educational concerts. For their work, the pair was awarded the Stadin Skoude (Cop of Helsinki) title last year. 

47th Police Officer of the Year

Jari Kyllönen is the 47th Police officer to be given the title. This is a great honour for him.

- The Police Officer of the Year is the greatest  honourable mention an individual Police officer can  get. I am truly surprised and happy about this award. Personally, I know innumerable ironclad professionals and each of them could have been awarded this. Given the opportunity, I would like to express my greatest respect for their work and the lessons they have taught me, Jari Kyllönen said in the press conference to celebrate his award.

The decision of the Police Officer of the Year winner is taken by Junior Chamber International of Helsinki, the Finnish Police Federation and the National Police Board of Finland. This year’s winner was made public on 28 October 2022 in the Valkoinen Sali premises in Helsinki.

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