On the 8th of July 2014, Nobuhle Enyam and her ex-husband Jean who originated from both South Africa and Chad respectively, (aged around 50) were sitting in car outside their family home preparing a trip to IKEA when they were approached by two plain-clothed female Norwegian Police Officers. Hours later, both were being released from Norway’s largest Police District’s holding cell’s. Mrs Enyam was pushed out of the facility in a wheelchair wearing only underwear and a singlet.
With the son of the couple filming the event and the husband documenting his ex-wife’s physical state upon release, the arrest gained significant media attention in Norway. The former couple called out the treatment as racially motivated, went to the press, and lodged formal complaints. However, after 14 months, Norway’s Police watchdog, “The Special Unit for Police Investigation” has dismissed the case.
Mrs Enyam told Circus Bazaar that she was “very disappointed in the decision. I feel that it is unfair and I had done nothing wrong. That I was stopped and questioned about dealing drugs and prostitution was humiliating. They put me in a cell basically naked and searched me for drugs. Then say that I refused to get dressed, but this is not true.”
The eight-page document outlining the decision describes dissimilar interpretations of events. On one side, two individuals, one of whom, had sought shelter in Norway from racial oppression under Apartheid South Africa, and non-uniformed police tasked with confronting drug sellers in an ethnically diverse neighbourhood that to their denial apparently stated, “many are Nigerians”.
The couple, who clearly believed at the time that they were subjected to racial profiling has been met with denials in the testimony’s provided by the officers involved who stated that they were “focused on drug trafficking in general” and not that they were “specifically looking for dark-skinned women and men”. Further, the officers insisted that had a plausible explanation been given for what they deemed “strange” behaviour”, such as “they lived in the area”, they would have been excused.
Mrs Enyam claimed in her testimony that she felt disrespected by the way the two female civilian officers engaged her. She tells of how “Norwegians drink and use drugs near a kindergarten” in the area and that she asked “why they had walked past several people who ran drugs before they approached her. She asked Circus Bazaar, “Are they going to stop every person with dark skin to ask about trafficking women and drugs?”
As the situation escalated, Mrs Enyam and her husband interpreted the behaviour as racially motivated. She reacted emotionally when one of the officers grabbed her arm. “Do not touch me, do not touch me” the officers claimed she yelled. At this point, uniformed reinforcements were called and the couple were handcuffed.
Mrs Enyam told Circus Bazaar that “she just didn’t understand why this was happening”. The investigative documents read that she yelled, “you make me hurt you makes me hurt” and resisted as they handcuffed her and tried to walk her to the car. Whilst Mrs Enyam recalls being forced to the ground by the officers, they testified that she laid on the ground herself. As they claim that she refused to move, she was later picked up by her legs and arms and loaded into a police wagon.
The police explained that upon arrival at the Police Station that Mrs Enyam once again refused to walk. She was then put in a wheelchair and taken into a cell for several hours. After time passing and upon her release she yelled and insisted on both a “doctor and lawyer”. Without her skirt and laying on a bed with a blanket the Police claim that she “refused to get dressed” so they put her belongings in a bag and dragged her from the cell forcefully.
Mrs Enyam disregards this explanation and told Circus Bazaar; “How could I go naked? I asked them for help. I was in pain and I could not move. They threw the clothes at me from the door and put me in a chair and threw me out almost naked. My back is still injured!”
After once again putting her in a wheelchair she was removed from the building where Mr Enyam was there to await her and at which point he photographed his obviously traumatised ex-wife. According to statements from the officers she once again refused to remove herself from the chair. The decision states that she was removed by 3-4 officials.
The decision concludes that no evidence was available to show that more force was used than was required in the situation. They believe that based on the evidence that includes surveillance images from within Oslo Police districts holding cells, that the “use of force was occasioned by her own behavior”. Doctors reports state that Mrs Enyam was sick for 21 days following the event with back problems and psychological imbalance resultant of a crisis situation.