Young people in Hague ethnically diverse neighborhood mistrust the police

Police officers on the street
Police officers on the street. (Photo: Politie)

Young people in The Hague's ethnically diverse neighborhood of Schilderswijk, still harbor a lot of mistrust towards the police, according to a study by the Hague University of Applied Sciences. The researchers note that the relationship showed some improvement over the past years, but the problems are still far from solved, NOS reports.

The relationship between the police and young people in Schilderswijk reached a low point two years ago, following the death of Mitch Henriquez in police custody. Henriquez died due to a lack of oxygen, caused by a police officer using a chokehold on him while he was being arrested at a music festival in the neighborhood. Several days of violent riots followed his death. 

The researchers spoke to around 50 young people in Schilderswijk, both before and after Henriquez's death.

According to the study, the young people in Schilderswijk don't feel well treated by the police. They say the police discriminate against them, use ethnic profiling and don't listen to them. A positive exception to this is the neighborhood police officers. The young people consider these officers to be okay, because the know them. 

The researchers note that there has been some improvement in the years since Henriquez's death in 2015. "There has been a big change in the attitude of the police and the municipality, there is more bonding with the neighborhood and there are fewer ID checks. That's what the young people say in interviews. Yet they are still negative about the police. Their image does not change so fast", researcher Corina Duijndam said, according to NOS.

These young people see the police as representatives of the larger system - the government - in which they have no trust, according to the study. "Young people feel powerless against the system", Duijndam said. "It stands for unemployment and discrimination. They feel like second-rate citizens. Every white they see is a policeman or journalist who writes something bad about the neighborhood, or a teacher who punishes them. There is a big gap between society and the neighborhood."

The researchers advice the authorities to change the composition of the police corps in Schilderswijk, so that it better represents the ethnic diversity in the neighborhood. They also think that the police should be more reserved in doing ID checks, and give citizens a clear explanation about why the checks are being done.