Published June 4, 2012
Waiting for my bus about a week ago, I witnessed a Hlemmur security guard hitting and kicking a (possibly homeless) man before throwing him outside the building and pushing him against a wall. It was around 19:00 when a man started yelling at the guard, who then turned around and struck him.
I pulled out my phone and did what the American citizen-journalist in me does when authority figures commit brutality: film it. The guard didn’t seem to care even after I started following him as he threw the man against the wall.
“We will ask his employer to release him of his duty until this has been fully investigated,” Strætó Director Reynir Jónsson told me after viewing the video. “We want to back up the story a bit more before we take any more actions.”
Reynir said security footage revealed the guard hit the man first. The guard told me the man threatened his family, but I don’t speak Icelandic and the security footage doesn’t record audio, so it’s unclear what was said.
“[Guards] are obliged to call the police if there is a physical threat,” Reynir said. “They are not supposed to take the law into their own hands unless absolutely necessary to fight back or in self-defense… but not proactively engage in any physical contact.”
Reynir said the guard is the only contracted security guard Strætó hires, though a Strætó employee is present during the day for security and sanitation purposes.
Reynir, who has been on the job for five years, said that the Hlemmur has become safer since Strætó removed benches and public bathrooms at the station.
“There were benches outside and they were removed because drug dealers and girls in prostitution used to hang out there and [do] their deals or whatever they were doing,” he said. “That caused a lot of traffic of these unfortunate people.”
After the incident, the guard came up to me moments later and said, “Four years I have worked here. I had to take it [Hlemmur] back from them.”
Update (June 5, 9:56): We were told by Strætó that the guard was contracted through the security firm Öryggismiðstöðin. However, the firm says it has not worked for Strætó in the last four years. Strætó could not immediately be reached for comment.
Update (June 5, 20:31): It has been confirmed that the security guard did not work for Öryggismiðstöðin and we apologise to the implicated firm.