'Racism, discrimination rampant in Dutch police force'

'Racism, discrimination rampant in Dutch police force'

Study reveals issues of racism, discrimination, use of excessive force, and prejudice in Netherlands' law enforcement

By Gulcin Kazan Doger

ISTANBUL (AA) – There are issues of racism, discrimination, use of excessive force, and prejudice in the Netherlands' law enforcement, according to a recent study conducted by French journalist Clement Verite.

Verite said the research revealed that the police in the Netherlands used more violence in 2021 compared to 2019 and 2020, adding: “The Dutch police used force in 18,477 incidents in 2021. This is 12% higher than 2020 and 27% compared to 2019.”

The journalist underlined that 231 police officers acted unlawfully out of more than 18,000 incidents of violence recorded in 2021. “In 90% of the evaluations, it was concluded that the officers used force within the appropriate and legal framework. It was stated that only 231 officers, which make up only 2% of those who used force, were out of line,” said Verite.

Noting that police officers who used violence increased in 2022, Verite said: “Although this does not directly mean excessive use of force, in 2022, it was determined that the police did not act following the rules in 266 cases. This corresponds to 13% of the cases investigated regarding the use of force by the police.”

- Racism, discrimination

Verite mentioned the remarks by National Police Chief Henk Van Essen on racism and discrimination “still being a structural problem in the police.”

He added: “In 2020, it was revealed that six police officers working in Rotterdam used racist insults and hurtful expressions in their messages.”

“Among these statements was the message ‘one more Turk is missing,’ regarding the shooting and killing of a 16-year-old student of Turkish origin by a police officer.

“The revelation of the messages caused public outrage, and an investigation was launched.”

Verite mentioned Eindhoven Councilor Mpanzu Bamenga, who is constantly subjected to searches at airports in the Netherlands because the official “doesn’t look Dutch.”

“Bamenga filed a lawsuit against the Dutch province in September 2021 with five human rights associations, alleging that dark-skinned people are more likely to be checked. Bamenga and human rights associations argued that stopping and searching by Dutch border police based on ethnicity was discriminatory,” he said.

Verite noted the court’s decision on the use of racial criteria in border controls constitutes “racial discrimination,” adding: “The Dutch Court of Justice has decided that ethnic origin can be a criterion in border searches without being considered as discrimination by the Dutch Marechaussee.”

Marechaussee is the national gendarmerie force of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

“The appeal was challenged, and in Feb. 2023, The Hague Court of Appeal found the Royal Netherlands Military Police guilty of racial profiling,” he said.

- Headscarf ban for police

The journalist noted that Dutch police officers on duty are not allowed to carry or wear religious symbols.

“There has been a debate for several years now about police officers wearing religious symbols, and this debate mostly revolves around headscarves. National Coordinator for Combating Discrimination and Racism, Johan van Renswoude, has argued that officers should be able to wear headscarves or other religious symbols in the workplace,” he said.

Verite stated that when the Minister for Security and Justice Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius signed the new dress code on June 28, uniformed police officers were banned from wearing clothing and accessories such as headscarves, crosses, or kippahs. The new dress code marked the end of the 6-month standing debate in the Netherlands on “freedom of the headscarf for the police.”

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