Icelandic Police Are Trained To Never Use Chokeholds, But Not All Of Them Listen

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Rebecca Conway

The director of the education and training centre for the Icelandic police says that police are expressly trained to never use chokeholds when trying to restrain or subdue someone, RÚV reports. However, there are still examples of this happening, and there is no legislation that forbids the practice.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, restraint tactics used by police have come under criticism the world over. Many US states have banned chokeholds, and a bill that would ban them federally has been submitted to the US House of Representatives.

In Iceland, there is no law or regulation which forbids the use of chokeholds or some other method of restricting the airway. However, Ólafur Örn Bragason, the director of the education and training centre for the Icelandic police, told reporters that course material for the Icelandic police clearly states that an officer may never use hands or legs to restrict the breathing passage when trying to subdue or retrain a suspect.

That said, some Icelandic police have used this tactic. In February of last year, a police officer was convicted of assault after punching a suspect in the face and kneeling on his neck when trying to arrest him.

In addition, when police broke up a sit-in at the Ministry of Justice in April 2019, video taken at the scene clearly shows some officers applying pressure points and grips to the necks of some of the protesters.

It is unusual for the Icelandic police to use force against peaceful protesters. Force was not even deployed during the largest protest in Icelandic history, when about 23,000 people assembled in front of Parliament in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal. By contrast, roughly two dozen refugees protesting peacefully at the same location resulted in the police deploying pepper spray, even against protesters trying to flee the scene.

Despite all this, Ólafur contends that there is no need to legislate or regulate against chokeholds, contending that both training materials and legal precedent should suffice.

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