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Police chief insists officers followed protocol over weekend deaths in custody

Investigations are underway to examine the circumstances in which two people died in police detention over the Midsummer weekend.

Poliisiylijohtaja Seppo Kolehmainen
National Police Board head Seppo Kolehmainen Image: Yle

The head of the body which oversees Finland’s police forces has said officers acted in accordance with protocol after it emerged that two people died in police custody during the Midsummer weekend.

Seppo Kolehmainen, head of the National Police Board, refused to comment on the details of the incidents before the outcome of two cause-of-death inquiries. But he said that officers had followed the advice of medical professionals.

In one incident a man died in Jyväskylä on Saturday while locked in a “drunk tank”, a custody suite where inebriated detainees are held until they sober up.

A second man died while being driven in a police carrier vehicle to Kuopio police station.

Followed protocol

The man who died in custody in Jyväskylä had reported receiving medical care in hospital. Police say they contacted the hospital before the man’s death, and were told that immediate medical attention was not required.

”Staff carefully followed the advice they were given by healthcare professionals, and were told that the individual would not be placed in immediate danger by being detained,” Kolehmainen insisted.

”The individual’s health situation was monitored regularly by custody staff, and the duty of care was fulfilled. It is now up to the investigation to establish the cause of death,” he said.

CCTV evidence

Insisting that ”Even when trying one’s best it’s impossible to guard against every outcome,” Kolehmainen said he expects the investigations to ascertain fairly rapidly whether the individuals died because of a seizure, or whether over-intoxication was a contributing factor.

”Forensic examination of course takes some time, but we do expect the results relatively soon,” he said.

”In cases such as these an investigation is always carried out in order to determine what happened. The investigation is performed by a separate police force. The force in whose area the incident occurs is never responsible for investigating itself in these circumstances,” he said.

Not all custody suites in Finland are fitted with CCTV cameras. Kolehmainen said he does not yet know whether the cells in Jyväskylä have cameras installed.

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