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Swedish Police Chief Dismisses Researchers' Demand to Dismantle Police as 'Political Activism'

Calls to abolish or defund the police have become popular amid the recent wave of protests against racism and police brutality that swept the Western world. Its supporters suggest reallocating funding to non-policing forms of public safety and community support.

The police are the driving force behind racism and chauvinism and must therefore be dismantled, Lund University researchers Ida Nafstad and Amin Parsa have claimed in an opinion piece in Sydsvenskan.

"The police are the state's force of violence. It is an outdated power that uses primitive and violent techniques. Which most often affect society's most vulnerable groups", the researchers wrote.

According to them, police in Sweden widely use methods and technology based on structural racism. Among other things, Nafstad and Parsa cited Operation Hoarfrost by the Swedish police, a crackdown on violent crime during which hundreds of raids were carried out in Malmö's immigrant-dense suburbs. The researchers maintained it was racist to carry out such raids against "the poor and minorities". "Stigmatising certain neighbourhoods as parallel communities only exacerbates social problems", they wrote.

"By redirecting the police's gaze, it is possible to see the systematic racism that stems from the police's current control technologies", the researchers wrote, suggesting that hundreds of police officers are nowhere to be seen in Sweden's well-to-do areas, such as where Swedbank's managers live.

The researchers also reprimanded the police for the so-called Roma register that surfaced in 2013, when the police were revealed to have a register of criminal Roma.

Yet another gripe is that police in Sweden (and elsewhere, for that matter) use artificial intelligence and machine learning, which perpetuates "today's structural racism".

As a solution, the researchers propose defunding the police and redistributing resources for local initiatives, where residents themselves mediate in conflicts.

Ida Nafstad is a doctor of philosophy and assistant professor, while Amin Parsa is a doctor of law, both active at the Department of Sociology of Law at Lund University.

Their proposal, largely modelled after calls to defund the police across American states following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the killing of African American George Floyd in police custody, was slammed by Gothenburg Police Chief Erik Nord.

"Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for political activism, helpfully disguised as science, to flourish at universities and colleges", Erik Nord tweeted. "Most people would rather see more police on the streets than tax-funded activism in academia", he continued.

​Perhaps unsurprisingly, Erik Nord's counterattack irked like-minded members of academia.

"It is very unfortunate that the police chief chooses to spread prejudice about universities instead of responding to the post in substance", political scientist Andreas Johansson Heinö tweeted.

​Sweden has an understaffed police force of over 20,000 officers facing gangland violence, drug wars, turf wars, and dozens of heavily segregated no-go zones. According to national broadcaster SVT, there is a broad political agreement that more police officers are needed in Sweden. Over the past five years, over 2,000 police officers have left the force to pursue other lines of work. Last year alone, 400 policement left the force.

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