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Senator claims police officers above the law

According to Senator Dirk Claes (Flemish Christian democrat), also mayor of the Flemish Brabant municipality of Rotselaar, police officers often get away with small incidents of lawlessness because the disciplinary procedure is too lengthy and tedious. The result is a general feeling of impunity amongst police officers leading to a blurring of moral standards.

A good example of the problem is an incident that happened in a Brussels’ newsagents’. At the end of October a Brussels policeman stole a couple of porn magazines, in full view of the surveillance camera. Although there was clear evidence of the policeman’s offence, he got off without a penalty or sanction.

Senator Claes says that this is not uncommon. Mayors are often reluctant to start the long and tedious disciplinary procedure, says Christian democrat senator and mayor of Rotselaar.

"If it is a serious offence of course, we take our responsibility  but for smaller disciplinary incidents, we often think well it’s better for the head of the police unit in question to take care of the situation." explains Claes.

"Especially the young police officers- if they see people getting away with behaviour that is questionable, they think they can do it too. I think we really need to prevent this kind of blurring of moral standards. We need a simpler procedure that is the same for all," adds Senator Claes.

The association of cities and municipalities will raise this issue with Home Minister Guido De Padt during an evaluation of police reform. According to the chairman of the association Jeff Gabriëls they want a clear and transparent procedure which will enable the authorities to handle incidents such as the one in Brussels in an expedient and uniform way, so that sanctions can be meted out fairly, properly, and in the same manner in all of the police zones in the country.