Abusive Tram Security Sparks Debate in Sweden (video) (updated)

This is starting to get a couple of days old, but we’ll mention it anyway, as an example of exactly how private security should not behave. Well, that is, if you want to set a bad example, give every hard working, security conscious guard, patrolman, officer or whatnot else out there a bad name, spark anxiety and anger, and generally lower the public security awareness, then you’re on track. If that happens to be the opposite of your goals, then please do exactly the opposite of what these assholes (sorry about the language, but there’s really no better way of putting it) think was a good idea.

Here’s the issue:

Gothenburg, Sweden: Tickets are checked by security guards from the tram company. This is a rather normal experience in Sweden and other countries. If you don’t have a valid ticket, you’ll get a fine, also called an “administrative fee”, which is usually about 100 – 150 USD, plus the cost of a ticket. PTOs (let’s call’em that – Public Transportation Officers) can detain you either until you have produced a valid ticket or you show them your ID, so that the fine can be issued. If you don’t show either, they can detain you until police arrives, at which point you have a choice between showing your ID to the cops, or go to jail. No passing go.

The issue: A recent video (above) shows 4-5 PTOs physically restraining a female passenger, who is clearly scared and thus mildly aggressive. She repeatedly shows them her electronic ticket, but none of them seem to care about it. With the ticket, she also offers her driver’s license, which is valid ID, even for boarding international (Schengen) flights in Sweden. None of the PTOs care about this either, and continue to restrain the woman, seemingly even sitting on her at times, to hold her still. Passengers around them are growing increasingly aggressive, and the anger the PTOs are sparking is very evident. They are creating a very dangerous situation for themselves, the female they are restraining and the other passengers. If one of the other passengers had decided to lash out, this might have ended in much more serious things than tears.

This is not the first time these Swedish PTOs act in a “less than admirable” way. A quick search of news archives (read “YouTube“) reveals a string of these incidents. In the latest video, fellow passengers actually goes to the rather drastic step of calling the police, who respond quickly. The transportation company (Västtrafik) has not released any statements on the issue.

Correct response: Private security officers have rights, and they have duties. If you have met the demands they can legally place on you, you should be free to go. If, for some reason, you can not or will not meet their demands, you have the right to speak to the police.

If you have met all demands the private security officers can place on you, and you are still detained, call the police immediately. Tell the police that you have been forcefully and illegally detained. If you wish, you may use the term “kidnapped”. That is sure to get the cops’ attention, and will be a correct lay term for your situation. We here at SB want the public, the police and security officers to work together – after all, we have the same end goal. When one or the other steps over the line, it serves everyone to draw as much attention to it as possible.

After all, that is the only way things can change. For the better, hopefully.

Update, 26th April 2012:

Violence during a ticket check in Sweden - image by GP.se


– PTOs caught on camera while setting knee to throat, chest of passenger. It’s important to remember that even the police has been restricted from using this move, and that these ticketing officers do (generally) not have any training in this kind of restraint, effectively putting this man’s life in grave danger.

The restrained passenger was charged with assaulting a public servant…

– PTOs have effectively gone on strike in Gothenburg, refusing to issue fines. This they say, is due to the criticism the head of Vasttrafik expressed when he viewed the video (above) of the incident. As a consequence of their…no fines protest, they’ve all been put on paid leave. Also, the union wants an apology…

Swedish police have opened up two investigations in the aftermath of the incident shown in the video above. One is the police’s own initiative, looking into the possible misconduct on the PTOs’ side, and one is based on a police report by such (but not the same) PTOs of threats against their persons following the episodes that have surfaced in the media.

So. Good, all round fun in Sweden. I still fail to see how anyone can say  the guys in the video did “the right thing” or “a good job”. It should be obvious to anyone that they should have ceased and desisted at once when the woman showed her ticket/ID. It would have saved them a lot of trouble, grief and cleaning up…


0 Replies to “Abusive Tram Security Sparks Debate in Sweden (video) (updated)”

  1. You seem to have missed a important point. She did not pay for the trip until she saw the “PTOs”, as you call them, board the tram. Then she quickly rushed to the ticket machine to pay. This is illegal, you need to buy your ticket when entering the tram, and the PTOs of course sees her behaviour. She had the choice to act like a civilized human being and accept that she did wrong and pay the fine. She however refuses this, and instead gets rather upset and aggressive towards the PTOs. Not until after quite some time of arguing does she show her ID, but then the police were already on their way to deal with her. When she tries to run out the PTOs grab her, and hold her until the police arrive. The PTOs only did their jobs, and nothing illegal as you seem to think.

  2. Yes, as Carlos says, the PTO’s acted calmly in a proffessional manner and according to Swedish law. They executed a citizens’ arrest on a person caught committing a minor fraud. When doing so, the PTO’s have the right to use force to restrain her.

    All this is perfectly legal but it is an unfortunate fact that most Swedes are embarrassingly ignorant about Swedish law, their rights and their obligations (an example of this embarrasing ignorance is the man in glasses calling the police, another is the commentaries to this Youtube movie). It is also an unfortunate fact that the more ignorant a person is about Swedish law, the more confident he or she is that they are right. I don’t know why that is but one reason might be that modern young Swedes have grown up thinking that nothing they do is wrong, no actions of theirs have any consequences and if they just yell loud enough they get their way anyway.

    1. Hi Carlos and Charlie.
      It’s actually great to hear some varied views on the matter. However, there seems to be some dispute. Has it been proven that the woman actually paid after the officers were on board the tram? It seems she claims she paid before they were actually on the tram, and that she had simply forgotten to validate her ticket, and then suddenly remembered it. Which can actually happen to anyone.

      Further, a citizens arrest is certainly valid, as long as the crime also is serious enough… Is it untrue that while not paying your tram ticket is a misdemeanor punishable by fine (if that), kidnapping is punishable by 2-10 yrs in jail? It seems the matter of whether this particular arrest was valid is open to debate, and with only that video to go on, I think we can still safely say that the “PTOs” were in the wrong this time.

      No matter how we look at it, they should have C/D’ed their so-called arrest the moment the woman showed ticket and/or ID. There was just no reason to waste resources, create that massive hostility on the tram, the huge public negativity and the negative press for their company and themselves, and not to mention kindling that kind of danger to themselves or the passengers around them. They were clearly in the wrong, guys. No matter how right they may have been in the eyes of the law (which is doubtful) or their own regulations.

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