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Video of racist police officers causes outrage, calls for action from politicians
Police authorities in Brussels fear repercussions among an already suspicious and frustrated populace after a video surfaced online showing two officers making racist and homophobic remarks while on patrol in Anderlecht in October 2018.
In the two-minute video, two young policewomen from the Brussels-Midi zone are seen driving through the Brussels commune with music playing at high volume while commenting on members of the public as they pass by. One of the officers likens the citizens they see to a breed of monkey. "Beautiful, all macaques," she says, adding that “it stinks around here.”
A homophobic slur is then directed at another group of people. "A bunch of big fags," the driver says. The window of the patrol car is lowered slightly, suggesting members of the public could have heard the insults.
At the time of the events, the Police College imposed an immediate suspension and brought disciplinary action and judicial proceedings against the officers, but it has now been revealed that both remain on duty today. According to reports, only one of the policewomen was the subject of proceedings before the Council of State. While her defence failed to convince the court, the case was thrown out on a technicality because the proposed sanction was submitted three days past the legal deadline.
The Brussels-Midi police issued a press release on Thursday, condemning these "extremely shocking statements" and this "undignified attitude which is in total disagreement with the police profession."
The mayor of Anderlecht, Fabrice Cumps, expressed his "disgust" at the racist and homophobic comments made. "They are jeopardising all the difficult work that is currently being done to try to reconnect police officers with citizens,” he said. “This brings into disrepute those who work in good faith on the ground on a daily basis."
On Twitter, the president of the Brussels Federation of the Socialist Party, Ahmed Laaouej, called for "a national project of reconciliation and appeasement."
"Everything is here: racism, homophobic slurs and other unworthy remarks from the police,” he wrote on the social network. “This can only stoke tensions… We need a national project of reconciliation and appeasement, and quickly."
Sofia Bennani of the francophone Christian-democratic party CdH, who works as a police adviser in the Midi area, said: "These are extremely serious facts being reported. I ask that this matter be put on the agenda of our next police council next Monday so that we can be transparent and consider sanctions."
Pierre Kompany, a CdH member of the Brussels Parliament, called for an emergency session of the Interior Committee of the regional assembly. "Too many acts of racism by the police are reported,” he said. “After the Ibrahima case and in light of the riots that took place, there is clearly a breach of trust in the police. We need to restore it at all costs and dialogue is essential."
A meeting was held late on Thursday between Mayor Cumps and Jurgen De Landsheer, the chief of police for the Brussels-Midi zone, in which a proposal for forming a civil group to address the crumbling image of the police was put forward.
"Today, the publication of this video arouses emotion and I had to meet the head of the police to see how to react to this emotion,” said Cumps. “Now that the video has ended up circulating on social networks without the necessary context, stating that the events took place two years ago and the officers were sanctioned, there is a fear of seeing anger on the streets.”
De Landsheer was quoted as calling the video “painful” and “extremely damaging to the police.”