Malls in Finland are often multipurpose spaces with access to municipal public services and transport in addition to shopping and other leisure activities. The mall in this project is one of the country’s largest and includes a public transport hub, library, youth club, public health centre, private dental clinic, blood donation point, social security and benefits office, office for rent-controlled housing, employment information point and chapel as well as services for mental health and substance abuse, immigrants and pregnant people and small children. While private malls are considered public spaces, they can apply for permission to contract a private security company to maintain public order in addition to protecting property.
Types of Security Guards
Mall guards (legally Security Officers) are hired by the mall to maintain public order and safety across the entire property. In addition to guarding the immediate vicinity of the mall, the ‘property area’ often includes the surrounding streets, as defined in the police-approved guarding agreement. Guards cannot deny anyone access to the mall because it is public space, but they can remove a person demonstrating disturbing behaviour. Disturbing behaviour is context dependent. In malls the guards must assess and define disturbing behaviour in accordance with what is deemed appropriate for a public space, while remaining non-discriminatory. Behaviour that violates mall regulations and results in interventions includes drinking alcohol, sleeping, sitting on the stairs or floor, play fighting, handing out flyers, collecting signatures for a petition or similar, collecting money for a charity and selling the Big Issue.
Metro guards (legally Security Officers) are hired by the public transportation company to work on metro trains and at the stations. They have the same rights as the mall Security Officers. Mall guards might remove a person from the premises and onto the metro and metro guards might remove a person from the premises and into the mall. If the person / people removed is / are a significant threat, the guards communicate the situation to the guards in the next location. Although guard intervention can never be based on a customer’s previous behaviour, this could result to denial of access in some cases. For example peaceful demonstrations are allowed at a mall, but if the metro guards would would report that demonstrators approaching the mall from the metro station are already behaving violently, the mall guards could deny access to the demonstrators based on this.
Municipal Facility Guards
These guards (legally Security Officers) are hired directly by the municipality to work in the municipal services area of the mall. They have the same rights as the mall Security Officers and often deal with situations in collaboration with mall guards. According to Finnish law, outside shopping malls, it’s only possible to contract private security to maintain public order in the following locations: public transport vehicles and stations, airports, ports, social service and healthcare providers, unemployment offices, social welfare service points and reception centres for asylum seekers. Guards can never operate in public spaces such as streets, squares, parks, beaches, sport fields, cemeteries and similar places.
Employed to work in one shop or several in the same mall to catch shoplifters and prevent theft or other disturbances, retail guards have the right to detain a person, use force and in some rare cases remove someone or deny them entry. They are not authorised to maintain public order or remove someone based on disturbing behaviour. When they work at multiple shops they can be seen walking between them though can only operate within their designated guarding area, not outside the shops. If the guard needs to chase someone they have decided to detain, however, they can go outside their designated area to wherever they catch them.
Plain Clothes Guard
Nicknamed ‘detectives’ in Finland, plain clothes guards are hired by shops to catch shoplifters in the act and have the same rights as uniformed retail guards. Even though all guards have to announce themselves when approaching a suspect, this is especially important for plain clothes guards.
These guards (legally Security Officers) are hired by a bar to maintain order and safety on the premises and in its immediate vicinity. They usually do not wear a full uniform but clear ‘Security Officer’ signage is required somewhere on their clothing. They have the right to deny access and remove people from the premises. As the bar can choose their clientele, a bouncer has the right to deny access based on their criteria, which can include age or dress code, but has to be consistent. The criteria cannot be discriminatory (based on ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc). Unlike other guards, the bouncer is allowed to ask for ID to confirm the customer's age