15:13 GMT +323 January 2018
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    The Law in These Parts: Finnish Municipality to Replace Police With Sheriff

    CC BY-SA 3.0 / Heikki Immonen / Kilpisjärvi
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    Finland's third-largest municipality, bordering two countries, is about to be left without an active police force. The authorities are prepared to take bold steps and employ the country's first sheriff to keep law and order.

    Stretching an impressive 8,391 square kilometers, Enontekiö municipality in northernmost Finland borders both Finland and Norway and boasts Finland's highest point, the Halti fell, which attracts thousands of tourists, despite only having a population of 1,900 and no border guards. To make matters worse, it is about to lose all its policemen, both of whom plan to retire.

    When the last Enontekiö policeman goes in February next year, the vast municipality will be left to its own resources to uphold law and order. From that point onwards, the nearest police station will be located in Kittilä, which is about 300 kilometers away.

    To counter the looming lawlessness and prevent the tiny Artic community from plunging into anarchy, the municipality wants to designate its own sheriff, Antti Tonteri, the first one of his kind in the Nordic nation's history.

    According to Seppo Alatörmänen of the Enontekiö municipality, the authorities feel obliged to take matters into own hands to ensure the safety of the municipality and its inhabitants. Alatörmänen argued that there is abundance of police work in the immense Arctic wastelands, where stolen reindeer and missing people are both a common occurrence.

    ​"Even the border guard has been closed down. Last week, we had a dangerous situation in Hetta, and it took two-and-a-half hours for the police to arrive. Had the nearest police station already been in Kilpisjärvi, it would have taken all of five hours. Every week, there are accidents involving long-haul trucks on highway 21, and the traffic may be cut off for hours. Last time, we had to ask for assistance from Norway," Alatörmänen said, as quoted by the Hufvudstadsbladet daily.

    ​Enontekiö lies in Lapland County in the outermost northwest of Finland. In addition to being Finland's third-largest, it is only the second-least densely populated, with only 0.26 people per square kilometer. Enontekiö's main industries are tourism (with focus on winter outdoor activity, such as cross-country skiing, ice fishing and husky sledding) and reindeer husbandry. About one fifth of the community's population are indigenous Sami people. The majority of the population live in the Hetta village of 900.

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