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Zurich police Publishing nationality of crime suspects is ‘discriminatory’

The city of Zurich police authorities consulted media organisations before taking the decision


Police in the city of Zurich will no longer automatically publish the nationalities of crime suspects in press releases, it has announced, arguing that it is discriminatory.

City councillor Richard Wolff, head of the city’s security department, has decided to introduce the change as “regular mention of nationality in police reports is discriminatory because it suggests that the offence can be explained by a perpetrator’s nationality”, a statement external linksaid on Tuesday. 

Certain media believe it is important to know the nationality of perpetrators, it added, as withholding the information can be viewed as non-transparent or a “cover-up”.

But the Zurich police describe publishing a perpetrator’s nationality as an act of “pseudo-transparency” that often obscures the root causes of the crime, such as poverty, low education, stigmatisation, or drug use.

It added that publishing nationalities contributed to readers generally overestimating the number of crimes committed by foreigners, which was “an undesirable effect”. 

The police consulted the editors of six media organisations – Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Tages-Anzeiger, SRF, 20Minuten, Watson and the Blick Group – before taking the decision. Three were in favour and three against. 

From now on Zurich city police will not automatically name the nationality of suspects in press releases, except for search appeals. However, the information will be provided on request. 

Tuesday’s announcement goes against the general trend in Switzerland over the past 20 years. Other local forces such as the Zurich cantonal police and Winterthur city police will continue to publish the nationality of suspects. 

In 2012, residents in canton Solothurn backed a Swiss People’s Party initiative to force the local police and judiciary to give the nationality of offenders in press releases. In canton St Gallen, the parliament adopted a similar initiative in 2010.

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