Ethnic minorities three times as likely to be subjected to police violence


Men with minority ethnic backgrounds are three times as likely to be subjected to police violence, according to an analysis of data compiled by the police themselves.

The figures, obtained by investigative website Follow the Money, show that minorities are involved in 36% of incidents where police use force, while making up 13% of the population.

An internal assessment of the figures, compiled in 2021, concluded that the high proportion could be partly explained by the fact that minority populations are concentrated in urban and low-income areas, where there is more police activity.

Earlier research showed that the figure is even higher for cases where people die as a result of police intervention. Between 2016 and 2020 there were 50 fatalities related to police violence, 23 of whom had a non-western background.

The death of Mitch Henriquez, an Aruban man who was pinned to the ground and restrained by five police officers outside a festival in The Hague in 2015, sparked a wider debate about the use of force against non-white citizens.

Two of the officers were given six-month sentences after they were found guilty of causing his death, though one was later cleared on appeal.

The court said the violence used against Henriquez was ‘out of all proportion’ and the choke hold used to restrain him was an ‘unmissable link’ in the events that led to his death.

The Netherlands has a relatively high rate of fatal police shootings, with police bullets killing one in 5 million citizens between 1995 and 2005, compared to one in 7 million in Denmark, one in 8 million in Sweden and one in 14 million in Germany.

Police are also more likely to use force against people with low socio-economic backgrounds, the figures show. Nearly a quarter (24%) of this group were on the receiving end of police violence, even though they account for 4% of the population.

In 19% of incidents police used force defensively after they came under attack, the figures show. Police also reacted with physical force in 9% of incidents where they were verbally abused.

‘An insult can justify a fine, but not the use of force,’ said Jair Schalkwijk of Controle Alt Delete, a group which monitors police activity. ‘Force is only justified if the officers involved follow the rules governing its use.’

Police said in a response that they did not use racial profiling, but young men living in cities formed a ‘high-risk group’. ‘Race or ethnicity is never a selection criteria for carrying out spot checks,’ a spokesman told Follow the Money.

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