Belgian Interior Minister calls for longer police training after record complaints

Belgian Interior Minister calls for longer police training after record complaints
Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden. Credit: BELGA PHOTO/ LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ

Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden has called for longer training for members of the Belgian police, against the backdrop of recent allegations increased violence and of systemic racism between the police force and Belgian citizens.

“Today, aspiring police officers go to one of ten police academies in our country for ten months,” the minister said on 20 June. “But I don’t think you can prepare people for today’s challenges in ten months.”

Belgium’s police oversight body, the Committee P, received a record number of complaints against members of the Brussels police last year. There is a growing number of complaints and judicial reports alleging racism and discrimination across Belgium.

Greater police training is hoped to better equip Belgian police officers. Belgium’s Court of Audit recently delivered an overwhelmingly negative report on the basic training programme used for Belgian police officers. A lack of uniform training meant that new officers were poorly prepared for the realities of the job.

The minister, according to several Flemish media publications, is now looking to imitate the officer training system in Finland.

In the Scandinavian country, would-be officers must undergo around 3 years of training and achieve a form of diploma in police officer training. “For some here, the diploma is a reason not to join the police because you don’t get a diploma recognised elsewhere on the market,” Verlinden explained.

The minister is not advocating for a three year training period, but states that it should still be longer than it currently is.

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Verlinden also has other reforms in mind. The Federal Judicial police will also go under the spotlight. The police force is currently said to be in “dire need of resources” and has no grasp on organised crime.

The minister plans to centralise the Federal Judicial Police, which is currently located in 14 different offices. There are also plans for greater flexibility, allowing police resources to arrive from different areas of the country over the summer months.

“We must extend this system to all levels, but today’s structures do not always provide a satisfactory response,” the minister said. There is also the prospect of expanding existing police zones. “I’m not saying that all areas should merge immediately, but we can still move towards more intensive collaboration.”

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