Shock at German policeman's knee-on-neck arrest

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has begun an investigation after video emerged of police detaining a minor by kneeling on his neck, recalling the arrest of African-American George Floyd whose death prompted mass protests over police racism and brutality in the United States.

Footage on social media showed two officers, one with his knee first on a prone suspect’s head before it shifted to his neck, as indignant passersby loudly protested. The incident occurred in the western German city of Duesseldorf on Saturday.

Herbert Reul, the interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, of which Duesseldorf is the capital, told broadcaster WDR on Monday he was shocked when he saw the footage, and had ordered an investigation.

In a statement, Duesseldorf police said the youth had attacked officers when they were called to deal with a group of hooligans at a nearby restaurant, leading them to arrest him in order to identify him and return him to his legal guardians.

“The video is being closely examined in respect of the way in which the police intervention took place,” the statement said, adding that the investigation was being led by officers from a neighbouring city to ensure impartiality.

Floyd died after a white police officer arresting him in Minneapolis on May 25 held him prone on the ground with his knee upon his neck for around 9-1/2 minutes.

In the German case, the youth’s identity was not known and it was unclear whether it played any part in the way he was treated by the police. It was also not known whether the youth had suffered physical harm from the incident.

Rules permit German police to restrain a suspect by kneeling on their head, but not their neck or throats, a spokesman for the German police union told media outlet WDR.

“It’s completely incomprehensible that when this young man is already pinned to the ground why the officer still has his knee on his head and throat,” said Verena Schaeffer of the state’s Green Party. “This has to be cleared up.”

German police have faced severe criticism for failing to weed out extremism in their ranks in recent months after it emerged that a retired officer was the main suspect behind a series of racist letters sent to prominent ethnic minority Germans, threatening them with violence.

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