Interior Ministry and police administration deny drug squad claims of persecution
"Someone trying to play us out of criminal investigation", say drug police suspected of wrongdoing
Leading figures in the Ministry of the Interior and the Helsinki Police refute claims made by Chief Inspector Jari Aarnio of the Helsinki drug police and other leading drug police investigators that their unit is the victim of a prosecutorial witch hunt.
State Prosecutor Ari-Pekka Koivisto announced on Monday that he would initiate a preliminary investigation into allegations of malfeasance against seven individual drug police, including Aarnio himself. It has been alleged that the drug police have tolerated unlawful activities by criminal elements who supply them with information on drug activities.
Five of the police officers under suspicion, including Aarnio himself, have taken sick leave for exhaustion. A total of about 20 people in the unit have taken sick leave - more than half of the drug crime investigators.
Aarnio and four other suspects organised a press conference on Monday. Two of the investigators under suspicion are working abroad, but they also gave Aarnio permission to make their names public.
The police officers denied committing any crimes. They say that legislation is clear and they have not broken it.
Aarnio said that the group has sensed that some people want to get his unit out of the fight against organised crime.
He would not specify who might be involved, or if criminals could be behind the effort. However, he said that it is clear that criminals benefit from the perceived witch hunt.
The organisers of the press conference made it clear that the Helsinki drug police have been denied the support that they would have liked to get from the police administration and the Ministry of the Interior.
According to Aarnio, the police would have expected some praise or even a medal for their recent success in uncovering a large drug ring. "Now we just got a bucket of s**t dumped on us".
The sick-out has been seen as a protest, but Aarnio defended the sick leaves.
"Sick leave is the right alternative for us. We feel that we are alone in a war and we get no support from anywhere. For that reason we cannot work at full capacity."
The police at the press conference said that they welcome the State Prosecutor's decision to investigate the suspicions raised against them, saying that the move could cast out on who is trying to smoke them out of investigating drug crimes.
They also said that they do not even know what they are suspected of.
Police director Kimmo Hakonen at the Ministry of the Interior refused on Monday to comment on the preliminary investigation. However, he totally rejected claims of a witch hunt against the drug police.
"It is a claim that is not worthy of comment. There is no point in commenting on such allegations", he noted.
"There is no witch hunt", said Helsinki deputy police chief Jouko Salo.
"And hopefully there are not two opposing sides in this. It is a question of normal legality control, which takes place at many levels in the police."
The sick leaves taken by the drug police vary in length from a week to a month. Jouko Salo felt unable to ponder the duration of the sick leaves, or the reasons for them, but said that they are formally in order.
Meanwhile, the Helsinki drug police are continuing operations through internal arrangements and cooperation with other units. Such agreements have been made with the police in neighbouring Espoo and Vantaa as well as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Previously in HS International Edition:
Drug police sick-leaves encumber investigations of serious drug crimes (11.12.2007)
Police bust massive drug ring in Helsinki region (29.9.2007)