Finland Table of Contents
Figure 24. Police and Frontier Guard Organization, 1988
Chambers of Police were established in 1816 in Turku, and later in other large towns. These chambers had the duty of keeping order, preventing crimes and breaches of the peace, and acting as courts for minor offenses. Although the term "police department" was officially adopted in 1861, police forces retained their judicial powers until 1897. In 1903 and 1904, the town police became part of the state administration, although until 1977 towns still had the responsibility of contributing one-third of some costs of police service.
In rural areas, provincial governors had traditionally appointed sheriffs, often poorly educated and inefficient peasants, who frequently did not have regular deputies. Only in 1891 did a decree provide for each sheriff's office to have a number of state-employed constables. The Police Act of 1925 brought town and rural police under the same set of regulations. Previous legislation and regulations pertaining to the police were superseded by the Police Act of 1967, a comprehensive law covering all police activities. Amendments in 1973 established advisory committees of laymen to help improve relations between the police and the general public. The 1973 law also defined the structure of the Police Department in the Ministry of Interior.
The Police Department of the Ministry of Interior was both the supreme command of the police and an operational arm for special functions carried on at a centralized level. Among the most important of these was directing three special police forces, the KRP, the LP, and SUPO (see fig. 24). A superintendent of police headed each provincial police office, which had operational command over local police units but had no police forces directly under it. Most prosecutors were part of the police system. The provincial superintendent of police was, at the same time, the provincial prosecutor who prosecuted the most serious crimes. Sheriffs were local administrative officers, acting as prosecutors in lower courts, as debt collectors, and as notaries public. Town police departments, headed by police chiefs, numbered twenty-seven in 1988. There were 225 rural police districts headed by sheriffs.
The organization of individual police departments varied depending on the size of the community and on its particular public safety problems. Departments generally had sections that dealt with public order and safety, accidents, driver's permits, criminal investigation, social problems (investigation of crimes against the Narcotics Act and violations of the Temperance Act), the civil register (population records, passports and identity cards, alien supervision), and a unit for preventive police work among youth. In communities large enough to be divided into precincts, the precinct officers conducted investigations of minor crimes, placed drunks in sobering-up cells, and supervised public facilities, including train and bus stations.
Larger rural police districts had similar divisions, with the addition of an administrative division to handle permits, debt collections, fines, and similar matters. The majority of the districts were small, however, with a staff of only ten or twelve policemen and no divisional organization.
Data as of December 1988