Videos posted to social media show Berlin police kicking a black man pinned to the ground. Officers said the suspected bike thief attacked their car. Investigators are looking into whether excessive force was used.
Berlin's State Criminal Police Office (LKA) has opened an investigation after footage of officers forcefully detaining a man in the suburb of Kreuzberg drew allegations of police brutality.
Videos of the incident posted to social media show police struggling to wrestle a man to the ground in front of a small crowd of onlookers. Several officers eventually pin him down, before another policeman runs over and appears to kick the suspect twice.
The event took place on Thursday afternoon near the Kottbusser Tor subway station in Berlin's south. In a statement issued Friday, police said three officers had been injured in what they referred to as "a serious breach of peace in Kreuzberg."
Confrontation in Kreuzberg
The police statement said patrol officers, acting on a witness tip, approached a 22-year-old man — an alleged bicycle thief — and took down his details. They "were about to continue their patrol, when the man returned ... kicked the car and tore open the back door," at which point they detained him, according to the statement.
It added that during the arrest, onlookers hurled stones, glass bottles, flower pots and ashtrays at officers, resulting in four "men" aged between 16 and 36 being taken into custody.
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The statement acknowledged that "despite the fact that the lawful use of direct coercion always appears violent, a video shows how an … officer repeatedly kicks a detained person who is lying on the ground."
It went on to say: "Even though the authenticity of the video has not yet been confirmed, we have initiated criminal proceedings on suspicion of assault while on duty. The State Criminal Police Office has taken over the investigation."
According to experts cited by BuzzFeed News, police officers can use so-called "shock techniques" and "direct coercion" when a suspect resists arrest and cannot be detained any other way. These measures might involve targeted hits to certain parts of the body.