9 February 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgium’s police forces are in a worse state today than they were when suspected child murderer Marc Dutroux was finally captured in 1996, one of the country’s leading public prosecutors said on Sunday.
The Dutroux arrest revealed monumental levels of police bungling and saw public confidence in Belgium’s law enforcement agencies plummet to an all-time low.
But according to prosecuting magistrate Damien Vandermeersch, far from improving the way they work, since 1996 Belgium’s national and local police forces have actually got worse.
Vandermeersch said that a series of recent police forms have left officers hamstrung by bureaucracy and drowning in a sea of paperwork.
“I am extremely worried and it is time for me to say so loud and clear,” the public prosecutor said during a debate on Belgian television.
The prosecutor said he was concerned that, despite the recommendations of a state enquiry set up after the Dutroux arrest, investigating officers in Belgium still do not answer to public prosecutors but to their own superiors.
This leads to confusion during investigations as lines of command are not clear, he added.
The mayor of the Brussels district of Anderlecht, Jacques Simonet, who was also taking part in the debate, said he blamed the police trade unions for the confusing situation. In 2000, they had fought hard to keep free of the control of investigating magistrates. At one point they had even threatened to disrupt the policing of the Euro 2000 football championships taking place in Belgium, he pointed out.
But Belgian Interior Minister and Vice Prime Minister Patrick Dewael dismissed both Vandermeersch and Simonet’s arguments.
He accused the two men of “intellectual deception” and insisted he was as opposed as anyone to submerging the police with unnecessary bureaucracy.
But, he added, a certain amount of paperwork was vital if the public was to trust the police.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Belgian news