Mayors deny culture of discrimination at Den Haag police

Netherlands police uniform
A police officer walking the beat in Amsterdam. 5 May 2015Photo: Joeppoulssen / DepositPhotos

Mayors of municipalities in the Den Haag region released a joint statement in which they "strongly" reject the idea that there is a culture of discrimination within the police unit Den Haag that the leadership in the unit is ignoring. With this statement the mayors of Delft, Leiden, Zoetermeer, Rijswijk and Leidschendam-Voorburg, among others, respond to complaints from civil society organizations, a whistleblower and political parties about racism and discrimination within the police, NOS reports.

Recently a group of 20 civil society organizations and groups representing minorities filed an official complaint with National Police Chief Erik Akerboom about the police unit Den Haag. According to the groups, the police leadership in The Hague have been ignoring complaints and reports about discrimination, racism, and abuse of power for years. They mentioned Fatima Abouloufa, formerly a team chief at the Leiden police, which falls under Den Haag. 

In June Abouloufa posted on Instagram about racism, discrimination, abuse of power and bullying within the police organization. She wrote that the police management ignores both whistleblowers and complaints. She was placed on forced leave late in September. Last week she as informed that she is no longer welcome at the Den Haag unit. Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security said that this was not because of her criticism, though he did not say why she was being transferred. 

Earlier this week Abouloufa's legal adviser announced that she is filing charges of libel and defamation against Grapperhaus. "It cannot be that a manager is punished because she acted in good faith with regard to the abuses reported to her within the police", legal adviser Karim Aachboun told NOS. 

On Monday three political parties in The Hague - De Haagse Stadspartij, Islam Democraten and NIDA - withdrew their trust from the police and announced that they are supporting the complaint filed by the civil society organizations. The parties accused the police leadership of not doing enough against discrimination within their unit, pointing out that then mayor Jozias van Aartsen said in 2015 that there is racism within the police in The Hague. "More than four years later we see no improvement or change", the parties said in a statement. "Issues such as racism, ethnic profiling, disproportionate police violence, intimidation, and ill-treatment of civilians unfortunately appear to be a structural problem of the police organization."

But the mayors in the region reject this image. "Continually wrongfully questioning the integrity of the police is no only reprehensible, but also dangerous", the mayors that fall under local safety office Veiligheidsregio Haaglanden said in their statement, according to NOS.

"When people question the actions of the police, it becomes more difficult for officers to address and correct people on the street", the spokesperson for interim Den Haag mayor Johan Remkes said to the broadcaster. The spokesperson said he fears the day when citizens see a police officer on the street and think: "I have nothing to do with you, because I have read that you are not honest."

The police make mistakes and that "things do not always go well", the mayors said. "Those errors must be acknowledged, learned from, and where appropriate, apologies must be made or measures must be taken." The mayors said that the police have recently invested in diversity in the corps and that the police are critically looking at abuses.

Jan Struijs of police union NPB told NOS that police officers feel supported by the mayors' statement. "If you are put away negatively as a collective, it hurts", he said. According to him, the police work in complex neighborhoods, especially in The Hague, with a lot of violence. "That is why this is seen as a statement of support."