There were exciting moments 14 years ago both on home sofas and in the police when the first episode of the Police (Poliisit) series appeared on television screens. Now, after 14 seasons, the journey has come to an end.
Back in the day in 2009, a programme about the everyday life of the police was clearly awaited, since with 274,000 viewers the series immediately broke records.
The Police TV series is one of the Finland’s longest-running documentary reality programmes. TV history was made on several occasions during the 14-season journey. Viewers got to know the patrols and heard different dialects from across Finland, from Hanko to Utsjoki and from Joensuu to Mariehamn.
The Police series gave viewers a glimpse of the tasks police patrols encounter on a daily basis. Viewers also learnt about special operations, such as the mounted police, dog patrols and motorcycle police.
Besides outwardly visible police work, the police also carry out other duties and along the way we have paused to consider whether or not the Police series gives a sufficiently diverse picture of the everyday life in the police and of the state of society? The cameras do not show everything that happens when the suspect of an offence is apprehended or what official work has been done before the police arrive at the scene. In this case, crime prevention, intelligence, analysis, special services and even work in the permit sector remain unseen. Even though the emergency response and surveillance work seen forms the basis of police work, it is ultimately just a piece in the big picture.
Viewing figures for the Police series were very high from one season to the next. The last season alone, from 1 January to 31 March 2022, reached an amazing 2.7 million pairs of eyes.
If anything, the popularity of the series also surprised the police. When the season began, I remember thinking that fine if this keeps people interested even for five seasons. When it got to the eighth season, I thought great if ten seasons can be made. However, 14 seasons exceeded all expectations. I believe that people’s trust in the police has been strengthened by televising the everyday life of the police.
Besides viewer numbers, among other things, the Police University College has measured the reach and effectiveness of the series. According to a Police University College survey, most of the police officers taking part in the series felt that it had in some way become easier for them to deal with work situations or at least partly because they were recognised as TV police officers.
The series has also been a good recruiting channel. From one year to the next, applicants to the Police University College have mentioned the Police series as their biggest source of interest. Last year, the figure rose to 60%.
The patrols taking part in the series have certainly left their mark on the hearts of many viewers. The feeling is mutual. One constable who has long been involved in the series commented that it is “the interest and enthusiasm of people has been inconceivable; men in the village, colleagues, those dreaming of a career in the police, neighbours and friends”. The constable who was just filling in for one photoshoot evening ended up staying for four seasons.
The Police series has had a lot of positive effects but making it was not completely without problems in terms of police confidentiality obligations and the protection of customers’ privacy. Legislation, too, has changed on the journey. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has drawn attention to this in two decisions. In the most recent decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman imposed conditions on the programme which do not allow a continuation of the series without significantly changing the programme format and production method. The changes required would not allow the Police series to be made as we are accustomed to seeing it.
All’s well that ends well. This being so, this is a good point at which to thank everyone who was involved in producing the series through the years.
We in the police have now had a lively discussion on how the work of the police can be communicated in a new way in this time and which channels it is best to use to reach out to younger age groups with regard to recruitment. Police work and the operational environment have changed immensely during those 14 years. The series has shown only a fraction of the work that the police do today.
We need to reform with society and communicate our current duties, challenges and solutions openly and proactively. Now that the cameras gone, it’s a good time to pause a moment and think how we can serve citizens even better than earlier here, too.
Seppo Kolehmainen National Police Commissioner National Police Board Twitter @SJKolehmainen