Police continue to improve investigation of human trafficking offences
The National Police Board is analysing the decision of the Deputy Chancellor of Justice concerning the investigation of human trafficking offences and will assess the improvement measures required in it as well as actions taken by the police in recent years.
“Some of the measures, such as the establishment of a national team to focus on the investigation of human trafficking offences, are so recent that their effect has yet to be reflected in the Deputy Chancellor of Justice’s assessment,” says Chief Superintendent Teemu Saukoniemi at the National Police Board.
Saukoniemi points out that the decision was made against a background of a heavy workload in criminal investigations, which is reflected by prolonged pre-trial investigations also in other serious offences.
”The police are developing overall criminal investigation in a crosscurrent of the resources available on the one hand and their legal obligations on the other. These include, for example, increased formalities and an obligation to conduct a pre-trial investigation in all offences, irrespective of their seriousness. The police do their best but the equation is not always an easy one,” Saukoniemi explains.
Plan of new measures
According to Chief Superintendent Måns Enqvist, various actions by the police have contributed to improving combating human trafficking offences.
“We’ve fortunately made progress in the measures compared to the case file assessed by the Deputy Chancellor of Justice. Among other things, all police officers must undergo mandatory training in combating human trafficking. The national human trafficking investigation team we have set up together with the networks supporting it and the National Bureau of Investigation’s anti-trafficking task force have already delivered results in a short time. Already yesterday, the National Police Commissioner requested a plan for the new measures required by the Chancellor of Justice’s decision. The plan will be submitted to him at the end of January 2022,” says Chief Superintendent Enqvist.
The key improvement measures within the Police to combat human trafficking are
• A national team focusing on the detection and investigation of human trafficking offences started operating in early 2021. The police received temporary funding allocated to 20 full-time equivalent years for this purpose. Around 20 human trafficking investigators are working in the national team located in Helsinki Police Department. Three of the additional full-time equivalent years were placed at the National Bureau of Investigation to support human trafficking investigation, maintain the situational picture of this criminality in Finland and to coordinate Europol’s operations relating to human trafficking in Finland (so-called EMPACT operations).
• In 2020, a nationwide network was established for the police to strengthen their capability to combat human trafficking and to accumulate expertise in combating and investigating human trafficking at police departments in various parts of Finland. This supports more effective response to potential offences. Each police department must designate three human trafficking investigators in the network. The national investigation team works closely with the National Bureau of Investigation, the police national network of experts on combating trafficking in human beings and other authorities and cooperation bodies.
• Identification of human trafficking has been addressed. Training in identification and investigation of human trafficking was held at each police department a few years ago in collaboration with the National Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking to identify human trafficking. Since then, the training material has been included in basic police training learning material. The Police University College e-learning platform has a separate online training course on the identification and investigation of human trafficking that all police officers and other personnel can access. A separate course on combating human trafficking started at the Police University College in autumn 2021 and is ongoing.
• By summer 2021, each police officer had been required to complete a mandatory online course on foreign affairs, which includes a comprehensive module on human trafficking.
• A new police instruction on combating trafficking in human beings entered into force in October 2020 (National Police Board instruction “Intervention in human trafficking and similar offences and assisting victims of human trafficking” was issued on 17 September 2020). Following the decision by the Deputy Chancellor of Justice, the National Police Board will assess the need to update the instruction on combating trafficking.
• The police participate in Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment legislation projects relating to human trafficking. The Police University College heads a multi-agency working group tasked with ascertaining how to make cooperation in combating human trafficking between many authorities more effective.
• The police participated in drawing up a national action plan against trafficking in human beings. This plan includes a number of improvement measures for which the police are responsible. Some of these measures have already been implemented or their implementation is well under way. For example, the modelling of multi-agency cooperation and pre-trial investigation relating to human trafficking and its quality criteria.
According to Enqvist, the police aim for police anti-human trafficking measures to be carried out using the same practice and quality criteria at all police departments in Finland.
The police are constantly improving their skills to interact with vulnerable victims