Racism, harassment within police won't disappear overnight: National Police Chief

There are problems like racism, intimidation and sexual misconduct within the police, and National Police Chief Erik Akerboom works every day to reduce them. But it is an illusion that he can put an end to all these abuses within a few years, the police chief said in television program Jinek, NOS reports. 

Last week newspaper NRC reported about police coach Carel Boers who resigned because he felt that the police were doing little to nothing against abuses committed by the police leadership. According to Boers, this involves things like sexual harassment, sexual assault, discrimination and forgery. "The standard is set by white, older straight men", Boers said to the newspaper. "I see very ugly behavior at the top that does not fit within the rule of law", he said. "Nothing happens against homophobia, Muslim-phobia, and harassment of women. Anyone who is more diverse, wiser and more intelligent than the sitting top will be systematically damaged."

On Jinek, Akerboom acknowledged that there are problems within the police organization. Around 1,500 internal investigations were conducted into police employees, often involving integrity issues. But he denied the "idea that we are a racist corps, a racist leadership. There is really no question of that." He also emphasized that these types of abuses do not only occur with the police, but also in the rest of society. "We are just people." He added that he himself can not resolve the complaints and concerns of 63 thousand people.

Akerboom said that the police have taken multiple steps this past year to increase diversity in its organization. According to him, 350 colleagues "with a more divers background" have been added to the corps. Much more has to be done in this area, but the police are working on it, he said. 

The police chief also said that cops with different backgrounds sometimes face resistance when they are promoted to higher positions. According to Akerboom, jealousy often plays a role with colleagues who have difficulty with those appointments. They sometimes feel overlooked, he said. "You always have people who think 'what about me then'," he said. "If we want to bring more diversity into the police force, you also bring in tension. And that is more visible than every lately."

In a reaction to Boers' statements to NRC over the weekend, Akerboom said in a statement on the police website that he takes signals like these seriously. He acknowledged that the working culture is not safe and inclusive enough everywhere within the police, but denied that discrimination and exclusion are commonplace. "There is no room for unacceptable and border crossing behavior within the police", he said. "I want colleagues to feel free and supported to report such behavior. To direct supervisors, to persons of trust or to me." 

"I stand for the integrity of the corps and for all my people", Akerboom concluded his statement on the police site. "And I stand for a corps where everyone is appreciated, feels safe and included."

Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security said that it is good that Akerboom is taking these signals seriously, NOS reports. "The chief of police stands for an integer and inclusive force, with a safe working climate", he said. "When police officers go wrong, they are called to account."