Since December 2013 Controle Alt Delete (CAD) has developed itself as an independent, critical and constructive organization. Driving forces are Dionne Abdoelhafiezkhan and Jair Schalkwijk. The organization is supported by volunteers, grassroots movements and many (young) adults who act as our eyes and ears.
Apart from Controle Alt Delete and Amnesty International, no human rights organization in the Netherlands has racial profiling on the agenda. The Ombudsman and the Dutch Equality Body have recently established their long-term agendas: addressing the reduction of racial profiling is not on the list. Anti-discrimination facilities do not actively engage in discussing racial profiling: they do not raise the issue with important stakeholders in the city (e.g. the mayor) and do not play a role in the public debate on this subject. Although the police say they are committed to end racial profiling, reducing racial profiling has not been set as an objective anywhere. Maintaining attention of the public is crucial: the focus on reducing racial profiling will fade away when honest police action is no longer demanded.
Over the years we have campaigned against racial profiling and promoted measures and measuring instruments. We’ve also organized events, produced films and situation tests and lobbied within the police force and politicians to create allies. Within the media we gave many media performances, wrote critical blogs, helped with researches, handed solutions and worked closely with several organizations like Amnesty International. Which all resulted in the following:”
- racial profiling is part of the national public debate on racism;
- racial profiling is being acknowledged by the minister of justice and by the highest national police chef;
- the national police have proposed a set of measures to counter racial profiling;
- the police started using the definition of racial profiling as stated by ECRI;
- the police (publicly) stated that being overrepresented in criminal statistics does not constitute a reasonable ground for being stopped by the police;
- the police (publicly) stated they will stop performing vehicle checks based on the assumption that the driver does not match with the vehicle, or that someone does not seem to belong in the area.
We achieved these goals through engagement with the police and sharing the importance of the problem. The acknowledgment of racial profiling is crucial because it is the first step of the police to work towards a solution. After a strong lobby, the goals were realized when they were made part of the policy of the national police (in Dutch: Handelingskader proactief controleren). However, this new policy hasn't been fully implemented yet. There are still two major problems:
- not all police officers are aware of this new policy. Research within the Amsterdam police force showed that only 30% of the police officers know the framework. Note that Amsterdam is known as one of the most progressive police forces in the Netherlands.
- superiors aren't able to monitor if police officers do their work in line with the policy. The reason for this is that officers don't register everything they do during their work. Arrests and fines are registered, but the police stops that didn’t result in an arrest or a fine remain unregistered.
Political, legislative and regulatory context in which we operate
Racial tensions are present in many European societies. Shrinking economies and loss of jobs create a certain fear with people. Politicians and media use this fear to promote themselves and get more votes. There is a climate of hostility towards migrants and asylum seekers in Europe. In particularly Muslims and people of African descent. The public debate has crossed the line into xenophobia and racism. The negative portrayal of migrants by some politicians, policy-makers and by and through some mass media has led to an increase in hate speech and violence targeting migrants. It has equally showcased the alarming level of structural discrimination, where policies and practices are undermining the rights of people with a migrant background and people with a religious and ethnic minority background.
Amel Yacef, ENAR Chair, said: “Racial profiling cannot be an ‘acceptable’ price to pay for security. It damages and alienates innocent individuals, results in tensions between communities and is ultimately an ineffective security strategy. We need European standards to promote fair and effective policing.” “Racial profiling on the basis of ethnicity, race, nationality or religion is a discriminatory practice and is a breach of fundamental rights standards,” said Judith Sargentini MEP. “You cannot single out people and the practice must be stopped. Moreover, singling people out based on their ethnicity, race, nationality or religion has a counter effect and often erodes trust in our society and trust in law enforcement agencies.”
Though increasingly active in the areas of justice and home affairs, the European Union has so far been reluctant to address the issue of racial profiling, claiming it is a national competence. Most European member states like the Netherlands do not keep records of police stops that do not lead to an arrest. This is also an issue for ethnic and religious minorities when they face intrusive stops, ID checks and searches when they cross internal EU borders.
There is substantial evidence of racial profiling by the Dutch police and the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee in the context of traffic control, identity checks, preventive searches and border-stops. Studies show that racial profiling is a structural problem caused by broad and vaguely articulated police powers, weak accountability mechanisms for police stop-and-search operations (in particular those not leading to a fine or arrest), and unconscious bias in security policies demonstrated by the behavior of law enforcement officers.
More often suspected by the police
For the same offense, young people with a non-western migrant background have a 5.6 times bigger chance of being regarded as a suspect than indigenous peers, for the same offence. This is shown by an analysis by PhD student Willemijn Bezemer, which Control Alt Delete published. For Moroccan-Dutch youngsters the chance to be considered a suspect is even 8.4 times as large. Bezemer, who is affiliated with the Erasmus University, closely scrutinized an investigation of the WODC. This study examined whether young people who claim to have committed a criminal offense are also in the police system. Bezemer concludes: "If we merely look at the group of youngsters that admits to have committed a criminal offense, youngsters with the aforementioned non-western migrant background are much more often considered a suspect by the police and much more legal action is taken against this group in comparison to indigenous youngsters."
More often put in jail by the Ministry of Justice
Another study provides insight into the inequality further down the criminal justice chain. In an article of the 'Tijdschrift voor Criminologie' (Journal of Criminology), Moroccan-Dutch youngsters are 12 times more likely to be put in prison in comparison to their indigenous peers. For Antillean-Dutch youngsters the chance is 10 times as big. The disproportion with which these groups are detained is even higher than in the US. Pay attention! The chance for an African-American to be detained is 4 times bigger than for a white American. There is a huge difference in the chances to be considered a suspect. The obvious purpose is that everyone who performs criminal activities receives the same attention from the judiciary and the police - that is not the case in the Netherlands. It is important to discuss the cause: what role does their cultural background play, what is the impact of growing up in deprived areas, under-advice in education, discrimination on the labor market and other matters?
Start with transparency
The researchers also mention racial profiling as one of the possible causes. They refer to the discrimination test with bicycles that we have carried out for the documentary 'Zwart als Roet' from Sunny Bergman. It makes sense to look at this: the criminal justice chain starts with police contact. If, in that first interaction, the same chance differences are visible, we have a logical starting point for improvement. To begin with: the police and the judiciary must be transparent. They must make the relevant data available to scientists for further research.
There should be a goal zero
The police should have the ambition to achieve zero events of racism and discrimination. The Chief of Police of the National Police calls it an illusion that he can put an end to all abuses within a few years but that he will work on it when he hears of a case. However, in recent years, several events have taken place where action could be taken. In 2017, for example, he received a "black book discrimination" with 26 different examples such as: "An executive once entered the coffee room with the question:" Where is that n*gger? ". During an interview on national television the Chief of police stated that he cannot indicate which action has been taken against the relevant manager. As far as we know, no agent has been fired in the last 5 years for racism and/or discrimination.
Stop proactive police stops
Amnesty and Alt Delete Control point out that people with a migrant background have been calling for honest police controls for almost half a century. Too little has been done to prevent human rights violations. For years, the police has campaigned to be allowed to carry out proactive work, doing preventative stop and searches. The aim is to catch more crooks. In practice this means that Dutch people with a migrant background are stopped regularly without any criminal offence being committed. However, research does not show that proactive police stops effectively contribute to reducing crime. Research does show that people with a non-Western migration background are stopped more often than people with a Dutch background, they feel criminalized and have less trust in the police and the impact is huge: it gives people the feeling that the police are not there for them. The police should only stop vehicles because the person in the car is suspected of a criminal offense instead of fitting a profile of a typical offender. Our vision is to stop carry out proactive traffic controls, with the exception of alcohol controls, as long as supervisors cannot ensure that police controls are carried out in accordance with the policy framework (Handelingskader proactief controleren).
The power of contradiction
We reflect in a critical, constructive and creative way on social developments and developments within the police. We address racial profiling by organizing meetings and dialogue sessions. We produce critical films and help to produce movies. We give workshops, lectures and presentations. We write blogs, summarize research and are a knowledge center. All our work focuses on providing constructive solutions for policy change and practical change. A few examples are: our collaboration on the documentary ‘Suspect’, Know your right training and toolkit make police stops better.
Documentary Suspect (in Dutch: Verdacht)
We’ve collaborated with producer Nan Rosens on the documentary ‘Verdacht’ (Suspect) about the impact of racial profiling. Dutch people of color describe their bizarre experiences straight to camera. The teacher, the soldier, the lawyer, the rapper and the police colleague alongside other Dutch people of color insistently describe their impotence, irritation, humiliation, alienation, fury and what it feels like to be suspected without reason. Feelings of shame and fear when they are stopped in front of other passers-by often without being told why. In the documentary they answer the question: "What experience with the police has affected you the most?" One tells about the humiliation in front of his mother, the other how he was called a monkey and another how his pants were pulled of his body by fellow agents. Due the documentary the viewer experiences what it feels like to be a suspect in advance. The documentary was one of the 10 best watched documentaries on 2Doc in 2018, on a total of over 100 documentaries. Even more special is the fact that it's a documentary on racial profiling: not a topic that invites many people to turn their televisions on. After the 10th of December the film could be watched online, which many people also did. At this moment, including the screening on TV, nearly 500.000 viewers have seen ‘Verdacht’ on TV and online. Together with the media awareness campaign that reached out to millions of people, the national campaign has proved to be very fruitful. The media campaign that we build around ‘Verdacht’ was extremely effective. Not only did we reach out to millions of people with our message, we managed to bring the discussion about racial profiling straight to Parliament within 24 hours. It enables to enlarge the pressure on the Ministry of Justice and Security, trying to force the Ministry to undertake more action towards the police.
Watch link: https://vimeo.com/287690617/94f9af66cc (with English subtitles).
Know your rights training (in Dutch: Straatrecht)
The aim of this training is to improve the relationship between citizens, in particular young people, and the police, and thereby counteract tensions in the street. Know your rights workshops are an interactive and practical solution to improve the manners between citizens and the police, in collaboration with the groups involved. During the workshops, participants receive legal information about their rights on the street, they are trained in the attitude they can take towards the police during a police stop and they are equipped with knowledge about the complaints procedure. Empowering people leads to less escalation, more mutual understanding and cooperation.
Toolkit make police stops better (in Dutch: B.E.T.E.R.)
Beter’ is an acronym that means better, in Dutch. It stands for: Begrijpelijk (understandable), Eerlijk (honest), Transparant (transparent), Effectief (effective) and Rechtmatig (legitimate). In our vision, all police stops should be ‘B.E.T.E.R.’ We made this vision on police work together with Amnesty International. Below we explain what every term implies.
- Understandable: During a stop, the police must identify themselves on their own initiative and tell them what the reason and legal basis for the stop is. Police officers who enable citizens to understand what they are doing, and why, can expect cooperation from the citizens they stop.
- Honest: Officers act on the basis of facts and circumstances that can be objectified with regard to an individual person. A police officer cannot, on the basis of intuition or experiential knowledge, designate certain (groups of) people as "deviant" or "suspicious" and subject them to a stop. Police officers are aware of the effect of implicit and explicit prejudices during police stop and the police organization recognizes (in) direct discrimination.
- Transparent: Systematic monitoring of police stops must take place at the individual and aggregated level. This allows the effectiveness and efficiency of the performance of the police to be assessed. This has both an internal and external effect. Internal: the police organization gains better insight into its own actions. External: accountability can be given - to individual citizens and society as a whole - about the deployment of resources. The "T" also stands for testable: an individual citizen must be able to complain about a stop more easily. The police accept the practice of citizens who make a recording of an interaction.
- Effective: A good stop is a stop that demonstrably leads to the investigation of criminal offenses and the improvement of safety. The means must, also with each individual stop, be in proportion to the goal.
- Legitimate: The stop is based on facts and circumstances with regard to an individual citizen. The stop has a sound legal basis. This means that one legal power is not used to circumvent the legality test on the other power
ECRI defines racial profiling in policing as “the use by the police, with no objective and reasonable justification, of grounds such as race, colour, languages, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin in control, surveillance or investigation activities”. The question is: when is there an objective justification? We have told the Dutch police that there are certain situations in which it’s absolutely clear that there’s no objective justification to use grounds such as race, colour etc. When conducting police stops the police may not take into consideration that:
- people, on the basis of their appearance belong to a group that is overrepresented in criminal statistics.
- people seem, on the basis of their appearance "not to belong" to a certain neighborhood.
- people seem, on the basis of their appearance not to have a “match“ to a certain vehicle.
The above has been acknowledged by the Dutch police and it has been implemented in a national framework with regard to proactive police stops. This framework is part of the policy that all police officers in the Netherlands comply to. The framework document can be viewed here (in Dutch: Handelingskader proactief controleren). With this step, made in 2017, the police acknowledged that racial profiling is a problem. However, this new policy hasn't been fully implemented yet. There are still two major problems:
- not all police officers are aware of this new policy. Research within the Amsterdam police force showed that 30% of the police officers know the framework. Amsterdam is known as one of the most progressive police forces in the Netherlands.
- superiors aren't able to monitor if police officers do their work in line with the policy. The reason for this is that officers don't register everything they do during their work. Arrests and fines are registered, but police stops that don't have an arrest or a fine as a result remain unregistered.
We are therefore very satisfied with recommendation E of the draft report of the CERD (DraftGC36): "Law enforcement agencies should commit to collecting disaggregated data on relevant law enforcement practices (such as identity checks, traffic stops or border searches), which includes information on the ethnic origin of members of the public targeted, as well as details and outcome of the encounter." These data should be analysed by the police (and by police superiors) so that it can be determined whether the measures lead to a decrease in racial profiling. Recommendation E continues: "The anonymized statistics generated should be made public and discussed with local police and communities. Such data should be collected in accordance with human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as data protection regulations and privacy guarantees." We very much agree with this recommendation.