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Working group proposes maximum police response time

Ministry of the Interior 9.7.2020 10.01
Press release 77/2020

The working group appointed by the National Police Board has examined what objectives could be set for police response times and how they could be achieved. The work relates to the target set out in the Government Programme to define maximum police response times, in other words maximum response times for the whole of Finland, and to increase the presence and visibility of the authorities, particularly in areas with a lower level of service. The working group’s proposal was submitted to Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo on 9 July.

The working group proposes that the police response time be calculated only for urgent emergency calls (category A), because these require rapid police intervention. In the future, the service capacity time of the police would replace the category B emergency.

The police response time would be examined using a five-step model, in which municipalities would be divided into risk areas and maximum response times would be determined for them.
Instead of the targets based on current average response times, the calculation method would be the so-called 80 percentile. This means that in 80% of category A emergencies the police would arrive at the site within the maximum time limit for a specific risk area.

What is a response time?

A police response time refers to the time from receiving a task to being ready to act at the site. For a number of years already, the police response time has been measured over the average target time and the actual time for both A and AB emergency duties. The response time is calculated as an average and expressed in minutes by urgency categories.

Ensuring equal status for citizens

According to National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen, the model based on risk categories for areas would realise the objectives of the Ministry of the Interior to commit to sustainable development measures. 

“According to the commitment, the regional security of the population consists, on the one hand, of the extent to which people experience crimes and disturbances and, on the other hand, of the speed at which assistance is available when such incidents occur. The equal status of the entire population with regard to emergency services means that these are acceptably balanced across the country, says Kolehmainen.

To achieve these objectives, the working group's recommendations for measures include the establishment of a separate joint transport function for transporting prisoners and other detainees and for the use of district guard services, and for exploring possibilities to cooperate with air ambulance helicopter operators in police patrol related transports in response to emergency alerts in sparsely populated areas.

What does a response time mean in a residential area?

Based on the working group’s view, its chair Mika Heinilä says that  the average response time per national and police units does not describe in the best possible way the response time in geographically different areas. 

“In the future, the response time should be more informative so that citizens understand better how long the police response time is, for example, in their own area of residence,” Heinilä says.
Typically, there are fewer crimes and disturbances in sparsely populated areas requiring response from the police, but it takes longer to get help while the opposite is true in densely populated areas. The proposed model and the maximum response time based on it would ensure that people living in different areas would receive emergency services equally in relation to their needs and similar areas would be treated in the same way.

Major variations in response times in cities and municipalities

Due to their diversity and different operating environments, there are major variations in risk areas between cities and municipalities as to the actual response time. However, it is possible to reach the specified maximum response times in most cities and municipalities with existing resources.

– By improving efficiency and implementing the recommendations for measures proposed in the report, the maximum response times will be reached in all municipalities by the end of 2023. To improve the proposed maximum response times in sparsely populated areas requires additional resources, Heinilä says.

Assistant Police Director Mika Heinilä, National Police Board, tel. +358 295 481614 (chair of the working group), Chief Police Inspector Marko Savolainen, National Police Board, tel. + 358 295 481762