The Special Forces of the Icelandic National Police have brought into use shotguns that fire so-called “sock rounds”, for the express purpose of being able to disable an assailant in a non-lethal manner. However, sock rounds can cause serious injury or death, and the pretext for their use is vague.
Vísir reports that the guns were actually taken into use last August, and only Special Forces are permitted to use them.
Chief of the National Commissioner of Police Jón F. Bjartmarz was asked under what conditions Special Forces were permitted to use such weapons. He responded that they are only permitted to be used in order to “deflect an attack on a police officer or third party, or to arrest dangerous people. The guns may also be used when someone is trying to prevent an arrest or attempting to hinder police in the course of their work, to pressure compliance when an order has not been followed if this order needs to be followed immediately.”
Apart from the broad range of conditions for using these guns, it should also be emphasised that “less than lethal” can be a misnomer where these rounds are concerned. The United States Department of Justice found that they can do serious damage, causing severe internal injuries or even death, especially if not used properly.
Police use of weapons has been a contentious topic in Iceland. This was especially the case in 2014, when the police attempted to procure a cache of 150 MP5 submachine guns from Norway. The discovery of the attempted purchase led to widespread public outcry, and ultimately the guns were returned to Norway.
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