“Our intentions were good but the result was not successful. We have taken on board a great many good points. Important discussion,” read a tweet on the @YBSödermalm Twitter account late Monday.
The controversy has its roots in a report concerning an elderly lady who was robbed of her handbag in the Frescati area of Stockholm on Sunday evening.
Viktor Adolphson, one of the two police officers behind the Twitter account, posted a description of the subject.
“Attention: bag snatching at Statoil Frescati at 11:10 Male, 20-30 years-old, black t-shirt, black shorts, black hair. ‘Romani appearance’ according to a witness.”
The use of the phrase “Romani appearance” to describe the suspect prompted swift criticism from other Twitter users, a storm which continued to rage on Tuesday.
Former Left Party leader Lars Ohly was among those questioning the witness description.
“Can you explain what I should look for when I’m looking for someone with “Romani appearance”?” Ohly asked.
Hans Calandras, a former director of the European Roma Cultural Centre in Stockholm also reacted to the tweet.
“What does a Roma look like? It’s as stupid as asking how a Swede looks. It is pure prejudice, and I do not understand what criteria they use. How would it look like if they said “looks Jewish?” he said according to the Mitt-i-Södermalm newspaper.
An apologetic Victor Adolphson has accepted the criticism.
“I understand that it may seem that it affects an entire ethnic group, it is a loaded word that is obviously perceived as prejudiced. In retrospect, I would have omitted it,” he said to the newspaper.
Adolphson has however received support from Stockholm police colleagues.
“YB Södermalm has written over 6,000 tweets – if you write 6,000 press releases then it will be wrong sometimes,” said Johan Lindgren, head of the Stockholm police social media policy.
@YBSödermalm is operated by Viktor Adolphson and Johan Säfström and is the official Twitter account of Södermalm police.
The account has previously courted controversy when Säfström expressed support for the AIK football team in connection with a match.
Peter Vinthagen Simpson