Saturday 13 August 2022

Official warning for racist police comments not good enough, say officers

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Hundreds of police officers have taken to social media and the force’s intranet to protest against the lenient treatment of a group of Rotterdam officers who exchanged racist messages on Whatsapp.

An inquiry into the group began last July after the NRC reported that police officers were using racist and derogatory terms to describe people who have an ethnic minority background.

The chat group had been closed down in 2019 following complaints from other officers. The police officers were commenting on a video which showed a white teenager being beaten up by a number of black teens in the Rotterdam district of Spijkenisse. They described the perpetrators as ‘cancer people and c*** Africans’ who they would like to ‘shoot’, the NRC said.

The men were given a formal warning following an inquiry but officers, particularly those with a migrant background, feel that this is far from a decisive action against racism, the paper reported.

One of the officers said on the police intranet that he had been hearing racist remarks for 26 years. ‘I still hope that we will change as an organisation. (..) Fellow officers who think this is an appropriate punishment are part of the cultural problem.’

The NRC quoted an unnamed team chief in the east Netherlands force who said his officers are angry about what they see as dual standards. ‘If a citizen turns on the police this is an aggravating circumstance. But firing off racists comments against citizens is, apparently, a mitigating one,’ he said.

Meetings

The commotion also prompted a meeting between Amsterdam police unit chiefs and representatives of different police networks, who represent the Caribbean, Moroccan, Turkish and gay communities.

In an internal email seen by the NRC, Amsterdam police chief Frank Paauw showed his support for the protests saying that ‘the comments had been cause for anger and rightly so and now the punishment is also stirring up emotions.’

Rotterdam police chief Fred Westerbeke said he was aware of the fact that the sanction had created unrest, including in his own force, and that he was in talks with different units. Westerbeke said he had taken the decision to let the officers off with a warning because ‘they were sorry’ and were ‘good cops’.

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