Still Adjusting | An open letter to the Copenhagen Police

I suppose you might be expecting a letter of congratulations, and in some ways you are right.

You’ve had great success over the past couple of weeks in carrying out co-ordinated raids and crackdowns on organised crime. You’ve collected weapons – including a pair of machine guns – and ammunition, and you’ve arrested key members of feuding gangs.

As a taxpayer, I approve of getting weapons off our streets and locking up those who are up to no good. I am, however, concerned about your methods.

In your efforts to combat gang activity, you have instituted stop-and-search ordinances in which you can stop anyone you like, probable cause or not, and subject them to searches and questioning. You assure us, of course, that this is for the public’s own good.

You set dates for the stop-and-search ordinances to expire, but each time they are about to run out, you extend them again. And again. At which point, do we acknowledge that certain areas of Copenhagen have become de facto police states?

While as a taxpayer I may be willing to begrudgingly accept questionable police actions when they result in the confiscation of guns and the like, what I absolutely do not accept is that my tax kroner fund police actions in which the biggest payout is the discovery of small amounts of a plant in residents’ pockets.

I’m speaking, of course, of your decision to crack down on Christiania and its surrounding areas. There too, you have determined that you can stop and frisk anyone you like if you think they look like someone who might enjoy smoking a joint to relax. You would likely argue that your Task Force Pusher Street is combatting the same gangs as your raids. Both, you’d say, go to disrupt the gangs’ lucrative drug trade.

And while you may have a point, your actions target the wrong end of the equation. Stopping small-time cannabis buyers does not punish the gangsters behind the cannabis trade. Rather, it slaps hefty fines and a criminal record on many everyday citizens.

But, you’d say, these people have done something illegal by buying hash and pot in Pusher Street. For now, you are technically right. But as the City Council’s cannabis conference showed last week, there is an increasing popular and political will to legalise cannabis. Will people’s records be cleaned if they are busted for something that is illegal one day and legal the next?

You have a habit of announcing your ‘success’ with Task Force Pusher Street by telling the public how many people you have arrested and how many grams of hash and pot you have confiscated. However, it does not take X-ray glasses to see through the numbers.

In February, you boasted that one out of every three people stopped outside of Christiania was arrested for the sale or possession of cannabis. And your figures showed that for nearly every 20 people busted for possession, only one was caught for dealing. That hardly seems to be hitting the gangs where it hurts.

Most disturbingly, your numbers reveal that two out of every three people stopped were guilty of nothing more than walking down the street. It is you, and not I, that is the expert on Danish law, but surely that is not a crime.

While some Copenhagen residents may be willing to be stopped and harassed if they think it will result in a decrease in crime, I and many others are not. I implore you to stop, if not for the city’s residents, then for what it will mean for the city’s image if you turn one of Denmark’s top tourist attractions into a frightening and intimidating police zone.

As the weather starts to warm, tourists from all over the world will stream into Copenhagen, and whether you like it or not, one of the places they are almost certain to visit is Christiania. What message do you send to the world if you stop these visitors and make them empty their pockets?

Your own mayor is against your tactics, and an increasing number of citizens are tired of their rights being violated. Don’t send tourists back to all corners of the globe with the message that the land of the Little Mermaid, Tivoli and, yes, the freetown of Christiania is also the land of rights violations and unwarranted police harassment.

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