Belgian police officer jailed for racist tirade onboard train

Belgian police officer jailed for racist tirade onboard train
Illustration picture shows Belgian police officers in a train station. © BELGA/Nicolas Maeterlinck

A top Brussels police officer has been sentenced to six months in jail for racist insults against a Black family onboard a train in 2015.

In October 2015, the police officer started berating a Black family travelling on a train from Brussels to Ostend, reportedly over whether a toilet door closed automatically or not.

The officer, identified as a chief commissioner active in one of Brussels’ six police zones, was intoxicated and began hurling racist insults at the family demanding they be evicted from the train.

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A train conductor alerted the police and upon their intervention to restrain, the convicted officer whipped out his firearm and dropped it on the ground, a move described as “sickening” by the court, De Standaard reports.

The officer was taken off board at Geraardsbergen station, 50 kilometres outside of Brussels, and in initial proceedings he had been given a suspended sentence.

Upon his arrest the officer admitted his fault but chalked his behaviour up to work fatigue, arguing that he worked and was “well respected” in the Matongé neighbourhood of Ixelles, home to a large Belgo-Congolese disapora.

Public prosecutors appealed his initial sentence and argued for a harsher penalty, with the court finally sentencing him to six months in jail and ordering him to pay a fine of €600.

“He performed his duties as a police officer in a particularly condescending manner and thus harmed the entire police force,” the ruling said.

“The display became even more sickening when the accused dropped his service firearm on the ground during the police intervention. The inebriated or drunken state in which the accused found himself in no way detracts from the seriousness of the racist situation he caused,” the court ruled.

It is not the first time racist incidents involving authorities are reported on the Belgian rail. Last year, a train conductor and a police officer were filmed addressing racist remarks to a Black passenger, with the police officer telling him to “go back to Congo.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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