The Uppsala Police Department has sparked strong reactions by posting a video of an officer riding a wooden hobby horse through an obstacle course and “sporting his talents” during a local event on Sports Day.
“Monday morning and rain… perhaps this video will lighten the mood!”, the Uppsala Police wrote.
The officer is part of the local Gottsunda Group, assigned to prevent crime and boost security in a district that ranks among the worst in the entire country when it comes to violence, segregation, unemployment and poverty. Gottsunda has been named among the 22 districts present on the list of “particularly disadvantaged areas”, which is in effect an official euphemism for “ghetto”, whose existence the Swedish authorities deny.
Particularly disadvantaged areas are characterised by parallel social structures, difficulties in police work, and religious extremism. Immigrants make up over half of Gottsunda's population. In the past few months, Gottsunda has witnessed several violent crimes, including several shootings and stabbings.
Given this background, the hobby horse-hopping video left the public deeply divided.
“No wonder the culprits no longer have any respect for the police. Sad to watch,” one comment said.
“When a criminal sees this, they will throw their weapons on the ground and give up the very same second,” another one smirked.
“Got the impression that the ones you need to create relationships with are not the target group that rides stick horses,” another mused.
“I thought the job of the police was to maintain law and order. What are you trying to achieve? Embarrassing is the word of the day. Don't think there is another police force in the world that behaves in the same way. I'm ashamed. On behalf of the taxpayers, you frolic at work and make fun of yourselves!” another irked commentator noted.
“Why not go all the way and run the race dressed in pink ballerina outfits with lace tutus, the dignity is already lost anyway,” another one suggested, in a nod to a Swedish police stunt from 2016.
However, many were supportive of the police actions, praising officers for being creative and making others smile. Some suggested such measures will help the police make friends with children from “problem areas”.
The Swedish police tried a similar approach to reaching out to locals in Brandkärr, another heavily segregated in the city Nyköping with a strong Somali minority, by posting photographs of police officers jokingly jousting with padded sticks.