Belgium’s police oversight committee received a record number of complaints against law enforcers in 2018, according to the annual report published on Tuesday by the police service.
A total of 2,965 complaints were made to the Comité P last year, an increase of about 8.5% on 2017, and significantly higher than the previous record of 2,885 complaints, set in 2013.
These figures relate only to the number of cases and do not take into account the oversight committee’s decisions. In 69.5% of cases, the committee concluded that there had been no wrongdoing by the police, while it faulted the law enforcers in 11.5% of the time.
Other cases were closed, sometimes because the police forces concerned had already taken measures on their own, or because the cases were taken up by the courts; at other times because there was insufficient evidence or because the Comité P was not competent to rule on the matter.
The most frequent types of complaints were those relating to the “unjust, incomplete, negligent or irrelevant” manner in which the police had conducted their mission. These accounted for 14.5% of all cases. Another 12.9% of the complaints were that the police had acted in a biased manner or had not treated the parties equally. Complainants also reported intimidation, impoliteness, non-shows and disproportionate use of force.
The report stressed that these facts were described as perceived by the citizens who reported them.
In its report, the committee also mentioned a number of concrete investigations even if they had not been the subject of complaints. Among other things, it stressed that there was no longer any specific and well-located processing centre where the police could take migrants. It also found that migrants are generally treated correctly and humanely by police officers, who have been collaborating more and more with the immigration service and NGOs. However, communication between these bodies still needed to be improved, according to the report.
The issue of forensic investigations in a digital environment was also mentioned. The support given to the federal police’s units against cybercrime is insufficient and there is no integrated vision and strategy on staffing capacity, knowledge management and material and budgetary resources.
The federal police and the Interior Department say they are aware of the problems and are taking initiatives to improve the situation, the Comité P reported.