“Young people have always challenged authority and tried to find their space, but here, a limit has been crossed. Normally, youngsters have respected the law,” commented Päivi Armila, sociologist and University Lecturer at University of Eastern Finland, in newspaper Kaleva on 5 September 2021.
The police have also considered this and wondered whether a certain limit has now been crossed? In various parts of Finland, the police has encountered situations in which young people have tried to disturb or even obstruct police operations. Similar situations have not occurred in the same extent before.
Disrupting or obstructing police operations has particularly come up in events like moped meetups, and other so-called rallies. Fortunately, not all young people commit acts of severe disturbance or obstructing of operations. Most of the youngsters attending the moped meetups behave normally as members of the audience, but some individuals focus on harassment and obstruction of police operations. Unfortunately, the disorderly behaviour has been encouraged and applauded by the public – at least by way silently approving such behaviour. And the public has not always just encouraged, as rocks have been thrown at police cars and bottles and cans at police officers doing their job.
In these meetups, the participants often pop wheelies on their vehicles and accelerate recklessly, causing several dangerous situations and even trying to provoke the police to pursuit, that is, chase the fugitive. Serious accidents have happened. Regrettably, the police are familiar with similar provocation in other situations as well. For the police, every pursuit of an escapee is a risky operation, but the individuals driving away at a high speed expose themselves to the highest danger.
Instant publicity in social media is the most likely reason for challenging the police, but the phenomenon may also be part of a broader issue. To what extent is this due to frustration among the young, resulting from the restrictions and exceptional circumstances caused by the coronavirus? That remains to be investigated by youth research. Exceptional circumstances and instant publicity in social media may be the reasons, but they cannot justify violating the rules of society, or risking other people’s safety. The police are always concerned about the young person as an individual.
The police may have to report the incident to social services, or, should the child or young person’s behaviour so require, investigate whether there is a need to involve child welfare services. Traffic behaviour may also result in investigating the need for child welfare services. The consequences of recurring serious traffic violations, and disturbing and obstructing police operations, may also include a driving ban, confiscation of the vehicle, ordering the vehicle to undergo a motor vehicle inspection, and a fine. Moreover, this may affect the young person’s hobbies, as gun licences are revoked and the young person’s hunting and gun-related activities become impossible.
The supervision of moped meetups and other rallies by the police is not a question of bullying or deliberately hindering someone’s hobby, but maintaining public order and safety, investigating accidents and maintaining traffic safety. There is no need to fear the police either. It is the duty of the police to prevent crime and traffic control is the key method available for the police to prevent a decline in traffic safety.
Young people may wish to have locations where moped meetups could be organised without causing disturbance to others. Such locations should be safe, closed areas where rules of the road, safe driving and moped handling in traffic would be taught as well. Events like that have already been organised in certain parts of Finland. The organiser has been for example youth services, whose task it is to support the growth and voluntary activities of young people, and promote their well-being.
We wish all road users a safe autumn!
Pasi Rissanen, Chief Inspector, Oulu Police Department
Hannu Kautto, Assistant Police Commissioner, National Police Board
Petri Pahkin, Superintendent, Eastern Finland Police Department
Jukka Tylli, Chief Inspector, Southeastern Finland Police Department
Timo Leppälä, Superintendent, Eastern Uusimaa Police Department