Police probed over high-speed chase drownings

Prosecutors have launched a preliminary criminal investigation into the actions of police during a high-speed chase that resulted in the drowning of two suspected petrol thieves after they drove off a bridge.

Police probed over high-speed chase drownings

The incident took place on Monday night as police were chasing the suspected thieves, who had been reported for driving off from a petrol station near Uppsala in eastern Sweden without paying.

In an effort to stop the suspects’ escape, police called ahead to operators of Hjulstabron, a drawbridge near Enköping that was open at the time for passing boats, and demanded that they close the entrance.

But the thieves either didn’t slow down or decided to crash through the barricades and then drove off the open bridge and into the icy waters below.

Divers recovered the bodies of the two suspects, a 20-year-old father and his 21-year-old friend, early Tuesday morning.

“They clearly tried to use the bridge as a fixed barricade. There are guidelines for how police should act in such situations. Whomever they are following should be warned and signaled properly. As far as I can tell, that wasn’t done,” prosecutor Håkan Roswall told the TT news agency.

Possible charges facing the officers include professional misconduct and possibly manslaughter.

According to police guidelines, a vehicle being pursued should be warned at least 250 metres ahead of a fixed barricade. In addition, a police car should be parked near the barricade with blue lights flashing.

“Having a boom with a red light isn’t enough,” said Roswall, referring to the barrier that normally warns vehicles not to cross the bridge when it is open for boat traffic.

The prosecutor also expressed his scepticism about the officers’ methods.

“These people were suspected of stealing petrol. To engage in a pursuit that ends like this makes one wonder if the officers exercised good judgment,” said Roswall.

Criminal justice expert and criminology professor Jerzy Sarnecki was also critical of how the police conducted their pursuit.

“It’s a horrible tragedy. Police are supposed to catch criminals, but they should never put someone’s life at risk,” he told TT.

He admitted, however, it’s hard to be certain about whether the officers made the right choices.

“If police had a decent chance of knowing what might happen, then they have committed professional misconduct,” said Sarnecki.

TT/The Local/dl

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Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.