A reform of Belgium’s disciplinary procedure for the police is being prepared, Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told the House on Wednesday, following questions about an incident involving racist remarks made by officers.
In January, a video filmed in 2018, showing two police officers from the Brussels-Midi zone making racist and homophobic remarks while on patrol, made headlines across Belgium, because one of the officers recently managed to overturn the sanction she received then, as it was pronounced three days after the deadline.
As it concerned an incident by the local police, the competent disciplinary authority is at the level of the police zone, and not the federal police, which is overseen by Verlinden. “However, it is clear that this behaviour is unacceptable and, as Minister of the Interior, I cannot accept it,” she said.
“Out of the 48,000 police officers on duty in Belgium, racist incidents cannot be avoided, but every one of these incidents is one incident too many and it degrades the image of the police, it affects the police officers who go to work every day and are not guilty of such acts,” she said.
Verlinden advocates “zero tolerance” of any racism that might be expressed in the police, adding that the new chief of police of the Brussels-Midi zone is an ally in this matter.
In particular, the reform of the procedure that is currently being prepared aims to avoid the risk that sanctions are overturned for formal reasons such as exceeding a deadline, according to Verlinden.
“The procedure is complex, the deadlines are strict and prescribed on pain of nullity,” she said, adding that consultation with the unions will begin soon.
Beyond the sanction, Verlinden underlined that the fight against racism and discrimination is an important part of the police’s training, and that awareness-raising activities are being carried out.
The Brussels Times