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Internet policeman chosen as Police Officer of the Year


Sergeant Marko Forss (35), from Helsinki, has been named Police Officer of the Year 2011. Known as Internet Police Officer Fobba, Forss works for the Helsinki Police Department as head of their three-person Virtual Community Police Team.

Marko Forss began his visible police work on the Finnish IRC-Galleria social networking website in September 2008. Following that, the operation spread to other services, such as Facebook, and more police officers from around Finland have become involved.

Social media is today’s way of getting involved

Forss has been successfully involved in social media the whole time. The team he heads supports all the Helsinki Police Department operations, but otherwise it is a nationwide service.

His basic responsibility is visible police work in social media, the development of that work and of the tools required to carry it out, as well as nationwide guidance via the social media work group.

His job description also extends to the training of the police and various stakeholders in police matters connected with social media, such as online sex crimes, online identity theft, virtual property offences and cyberbullying.

Forss has also attended international seminars on the general subject and worked closely with the Estonian police, for example. In Estonia, virtual community policing began this year. Several other countries too have expressed an interest in working in this way.

It seems that Forss was selected for the title because of his unbiased approach to removing many of the challenges posed by the virtual world for which he was not able to prepare himself in advance. Through sheer persistence, he has achieved a model of involvement that is suited to today’s world.

A wonderful way to connect with people

The purpose of participating in social media is to support basic police operations. Advice, discussion, preventive action and early intervention are the main ways to achieve objectives.

Marko Forss believes that social media are an effective and viable way to connect with people, especially the young.

“It is easy to approach the police on the internet and ask embarrassing questions that have been on your mind,” he says.

Forss thinks that it is important that the police are also visible on the internet.

“People are spending more and more time on social media, so some criminality is finding its way there. That’s why it is becoming important now - and the trend will continue – to protect people’s rights online as well as in the conventional sense.”

Forss thinks that it is online sex crimes against children that have become the most serious problem on the internet, and that that there has not been an adequately effective response to it as yet.

“Things often go unreported to the police or any adult, for that matter. The Virtual Community Police Team has been able to lower the reporting threshold, and young people have not been afraid to contact us in cases of a sensitive nature. But this alone is not enough to solve the problem: we need more robust measures,” says Marko Forss.

Police to become more visible on the internet

Internet policing, as well as their general presence on the internet, has been greatly developed by the police, with support from the National Police Board and with special funding. Almost 15,000 reports have been made to the police via the online tip-off facility on their website during the time that the system has been in existence, i.e. just under two years. On Facebook the police now have almost 175,000 fans.

The Police Officer of the Year title has now been chosen 36 times. The selection is made by the Junior Chamber (of Commerce) International Helsinki, the Finnish Police Federation and the National Police Board.

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