Immigrants and non-whites are more likely to be stopped and searched by police without just cause than ethnic Danes and those from a Western background, a new Danish Radio documentary called "In the grip of the police: Dark-skinned and suspicious" claimed.
According to Statistics Denmark, non-Western immigrants and their descendants had an 86 to 88 percent higher risk of being apprehended without subsequent conviction, compared to ethnic Danes.
"The figures show that something is wrong somewhere in the system," Morten Kjærum, the director of the International Human Rights Organization Raoul Wallenberg Institute and former director of the Institute for Human Rights, told Danish Radio.
According to Lars Holmberg, a law researcher at the University of Copenhagen, these numbers are indicative of discrimination that called for extra investigation.
Engineering student Hedayat Alefi, 24, told Danish Radio he has experienced unfounded detention time and again.
"Their attitude is treating you like a criminal. It's like you've just robbed Missis Hansen or something," Alefi said.
Consultant James Thomsen, 39, who was adopted, is therefore seen as an ethnic Dane in the statistics. Nevertheless, he claimed being stopped by the police for no reason, even while driving his Porsche from his home in Sweden to Denmark. By his own admission, he has to add a quarter of an hour to be on the safe side. By contrast, he claims not to have experienced anything like this in Sweden, whose police he called "color blind."
The Danish police have rejected the idea of discriminating against people based on skin color or ethnic background. Police chief Svend Larsen stressed the fact that very few complaints are actually lodged in this matter. Larsen also emphasized that Danish police don't register people's ethnicity as irrelevant to the police.
However, Denmark's national police commissioner Jens Henrik Højbjerg promised to open an investigation to find out whether this is a mere coincidence or something that marks a pattern. At the same time, he assured that such a representation in the way in which searches are conducted clearly was not intentional, Danish Radio reported.
Højbjerg has suggested that the skewed statistics may actually be a result of strategies being employed by the police. The bulk of the police resources to uphold law and order are concentrated on residential areas with a high percentage of non-Danish populations, hence the overrepresentation.
Højbjerg's claims have been supported by Preben Bang Henriksen, the spokesman of the ruling Liberal Party.
"As we are not receiving compensation claims or registering that many complaints, it does not ring any alarm bells for me," Bang Henriksen said. At the same time he stressed that the police should act on reasonable criteria. Otherwise its routines need fine-tuning, he added.