City councillor Richard Wolff, head of the city’s security department, ordered the new measure, which is backed by centre and left-wing parties.
In a statement, the department said “the regular mention of nationality in police reports is discriminatory because it suggests that the offence can be explained by the nationality of the perpetrator”.
Some media say it is important in the name of transparency to state a suspect’s nationality and not to do so is a cover-up, said the statement.
However the security department disagrees. By mentioning nationality “it is suggested that the deed can be explained to some extent. But this only obscures what the root causes of criminal activity are,” it said, naming poverty, low education, stigmatization, drug use and other factors as the real cause of crime.
“So nationality is a sham transparency that hides the causes of crime.”
The statement added that reporting nationality leads media consumers to think the number of crimes committed by foreigners is higher than it actually is, something which is an “undesirable effect”.
The security department interviewed editors of six Swiss newspapers prior to making a decision: three agreed and three disagreed with Wolff’s stance.
From now on Zurich police will not automatically name the nationality of suspects in media releases – with the exception of search appeals – though that information will be given out on request.
This marks a return to Swiss police practices of some 20 years ago, before a suspect’s nationality was automatically given.
The Local does not automatically name a suspect’s nationality but will do so if deemed relevant.