Föstudagur 1. júlí, 2022
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Chief of Police denies racial profiling but says police must listen to the community they serve

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„In this specific case, the police is never the one choosing the individual to interfere with,“ said Iceland’s Chief of Police at an open meeting in Parliament. The meeting was held to discuss police officer’s education on multiculturalism and prejudice. The main reason for it being held now was an incident that occurred last April, when a 16 year old boy, who is black, was approached twice by police when search for the convict Gabríel Duane Boama was being carried out.

 

Police must chase leads

Arndís Anna Kristínardóttir Gunnarsdóttir, a congresswoman for the Pirate party, requested the meeting due to worries recently voiced in the community about racial profiling in Iceland.

„We are following through with leads from the public,“ said the Chief of Police, Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir, when it was her time to answer the questions and worries raised at the start of the meeting. „So in this specific case there is no racial profiling to be found. In this scenario we are searching for a dangerous man, there are leads coming in and we must follow through with them. We simply cannot choose not to chase after some of them, due to the nature of the assignment.“

 

Misunderstandings in the media coverage

Guðjónsdóttir claimed to be saddened by the fact that the young boy had to be subject to repeated disturbance by police. She does however claim there to have been some misunderstanding in the media’s coverage on the matter. All videos of the incidents have apparently been scrutinized.

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„The special forces did not barge in with weapons held high. They actually never communicated with the boy, never talked to him,“ Guðjónsdóttir claimed. She also emphasized that police officers are specially trained to identify people. Therefore, they had immediately been aware that the boy in question was not the one they were searching for. „In the first instance, they walked to the end of the bus, turned around and exited. Nevertheless, this was very traumatic for the boy. The second incident was very similar. A police officer walks in and starts talking to the boy’s mother. That is a conversation that we have on tape.“

Police must listen to the community they serve

The Chief of Police said that despite this case not being an example of racial profiling, many aspects of it are worth pondering. She emphasized the fact that the police are servants to the people and, as such, it is trivial that they listen to the voices of the community that they serve. Guðjónsdóttir wondered whether police should possibly have issued some sort of warning when announcing of Boama’s escape and advertising him as a wanted man in the media. She claimed that police had discussed the matter with the parents of the boy who had twice been wrongfully identified by the public. She said that police would be better equipped with evaluating similar things after these incidents. „It is intolerable that this should happen to an innocent young person, that they should endure such a traumatic experience.“

In the meeting, Guðjónsdóttir went over some of the work carried out within the police force in the last few years, regarding prejudice and racism. For example, a ban of certain signs on police officer’s uniforms, as well as the work still being carried out. She talked about the education received by police officers regarding prejudice and hate crime, among other things.

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Guðjónsdóttir claimed it to be vital to reinforce nationwide inner supervision in the police force. She recommended a joint effort in the community to deal with every day prejudice and recommended that parliament be the driving force behind it.

 

This article was originally published in Icelandic by Gunnhildur Kjerúlf Birgisdóttir.

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