Police in Finland have been reprimanded by Parliamentary Ombudsmen for speaking only Finnish when breaking up a wild teenage party. The rights of Swedish-speaking revellers at the party in Espoo, southern Finland, were violated, according to Ombudsman Petri Jasskelainen, when police ordered around 50 adolescents out of a house in November 2008.
Some of the teens also ended up being taken down to the lock-up after frantic calls from the neighbours and polite requests from the police failed to quietened the boisterous bash. The detainees, some of which spoke Swedish as their first language, were questioned and had fines imposed upon them in Finnish.
The Swedish Assembly of Finland (Folkinget) and three of the juveniles made official complaints about the police to the Parliamentary Ombudsman after the event. One of the youths even called the emergency centre due to the language issue.
The police claimed that they only used Finnish when initially breaking up the party as they did not know that some of the teens would prefer to speak Swedish. One officer, however, admitted that he regarded the requests for a Swedish translation as trouble making.
Jaaskelainen concluded that the events show that the police did not have the understanding, will or ability to properly carry out the linguistic rights of citizens. The bilingual status of Finland is written into the Constitution. It dictates that the Swedish language minority has the right to converse with state authorities in their mother tongue.