Brussels police denounce officers filmed yelling racist insults on patrol

Brussels police denounce officers filmed yelling racist insults on patrol
Illustration image. Credit: Belga

A video of police officers yelling racist and homophobic comments while on patrol in Anderlecht has had a damaging impact on the image of the police in general, according to a new complaint filed against the officers by the Brussels Midi police zone.

The video from October 2018 was filmed by two officers on patrol in Anderlecht, during which they insulted the neighbourhood’s population from their car and saying that “it stinks here.”

"This behaviour really cannot be tolerated," said Police chief of the Brussels Midi zone Jurgen De Landsheer told Bruzz. "The vast majority who do their work properly should not have to suffer from the misconduct of a few."

As a result of the video appearing in the press, the police district has suffered significant image damage, and as a result, a complaint will be filed against the officers in question via the court.

While the two officers were sanctioned in 2018 after a report of the video was made by another officer, one recently managed to overturn a pay cut as the sanction against her was pronounced three days too late. De Landsheer called the verdict "painful" and said that it did not do the image of the police any good, reports Het Laatste Nieuws.

The inspector who wrote the report on the video in 2018 drew attention to the fact that the officers' "loud music, dance moves and attitude" did not escape the public's attention, according to the newspaper.

He wrote that their behaviour was unacceptable, calling it "flat-out racist and xenophobic," and warned that the video "could cause hostile demonstrations in the sensitive neighbourhoods of Anderlecht."

Then-chief of police Patrick Evenepoel immediately suspended both officers, and withheld 25% of their gross salary for one month. The disciplinary council imposed an additional sanction by downgrading them on the salary scale - meaning they received less pay.

The officer who was filmed on the passenger seat of the car eventually left the force herself, and now reportedly still works as an officer in another police force, according to several media.

Three days late

However, the other officer has now successfully challenged her sanction, not because she denies what happened, but because she received her punishment three days late, according to the letter of the law, reports De Morgen.

She brought both decisions before the Council of State, saying that the suspension was an attack on her reputation and honour and that the loss of income meant that she could no longer pay her bills and her police dog suffered as a result.

While the Council did not follow her regarding her suspension, it did state that her loss of salary was unjustified as the deadline, by which the disciplinary punishment should have been pronounced, was exceeded by three days, prompting indignant reactions from several Brussels politicians.

The police will now have to pay for all legal costs and her lawyer, and they are also assuming they will also have to pay back her loss of earnings.

According to La Dernière Heure, she still works for the Brussels Midi police force. The Brussels public prosecutor's office was also informed about her misconduct, but the case was reportedly dismissed.

Current police chief De Landsheer, meanwhile, wants an adaptation of the disciplinary procedure. "All too often, sanctioned police officers get off scot-free afterwards, usually because the time limits of the disciplinary law were not respected."

"I, therefore, believe that we must be able to dismiss officers immediately in the event of obvious serious misconduct," he said. "But for that, of course, we need the tools from the Minister and the syndicates."

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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