Home News ‘Racism in the police is not a relevant problem in Portugal’ defends police union boss

‘Racism in the police is not a relevant problem in Portugal’ defends police union boss

Published on 08/06/2020

In the recent Lisbon demonstrations against racism over the past weekend, posters with the words “The only good police are dead police” and “Police assassins” drew attention from many, especially the agents of Portugal’s security forces.

“They pass on the idea to the younger people that the policeman is the enemy, at a time when there are more and more aggressions against policemen, committed mainly by these groups”, said to newspaper Diario de Noticias Paulo Rodrigues in an interview on Monday. Mr. Rodrigues is president of the Socio-Union Association of Police Professionals (ASPP -PSP), an entity that intends to press charges against the authors of the posters for inciting hatred and violence.

The union leader admits that there are occasional cases of racist and violent police behaviour but says that it is not a relevant problem in Portugal in the same way as “what happens in the USA and in other countries”. He highlights the importance of police officers using body cams. “That way, we would all have the notion of what led the police to make a certain intervention”, he justifies.

Was it the poster with the inscription “Good police is dead police” at the demonstration against racism that motivated the filing of a complaint at the Public Ministry for incitement to hatred and violence?

Mr. Rodrigues explained that there were several posters that caught the attention of police officers for inciting violence against public servants, such as one that read “From Minnesota to Porto – The only good police is dead police”. Among others, these were the ones that outraged the police and motivated the complaint.

Discussing the protesters’ signs, “they are real” he said. “What is most unfair is the incitement to hatred and violence at a time when there are more and more aggressions against policemen. Just last week we presented a document to the Government in which we warned of an increase in aggressions against the police, with many of the cases being made by groups of individuals. During the lockdown there were several situations. These messages – which we believe are isolated cases – end up giving force to these aggressions and can lead to them increasing. That is why they had a very negative impact on the police” he explained.

The union leader stated that these sort of signs “appeal to the call for hatred and violence against policemen”, thus creating situations that authorities want to avoid once the people who displayed the posters are held responsible. He also expressed that the use of violent speech on some signs is also a message to the Government and parliamentary groups that it is necessary to be alert, that this type of situation will tell young people that the police are the enemy. “We want society to live in peace” he said.  

“What we see is that there has been an increase in group crime in recent times. And it is easier to attack in a group than in isolation. They take policemen as an easy target. Therefore, in the document we presented to the Government, we made several proposals, with the use of appropriate equipment, to improve the form of policing in sensitive urban areas, among others. Now competent authorities have to make decisions” he added.

Discussing the death of George Floyd, which has taken the USA by storm with many criticisms of racist violence at the hands of police officers, the representative was asked whether it a reality that has a parallel in Portugal.

“In any institution mistakes are made, some serious, and the police must be held responsible. I do not think that what is happening in the United States and other countries is comparable to the reality of the police in Portugal. There are occasional cases here. We have to improve, and criticism improves the relationship with the citizen. What we ask is that policemen can use body-cams [camcorders for each agent] when they act, so it can be viewed by all responsible entities and check for police failures. Often these conflict situations are reported on social networks in a way that does not reflect the whole reality of the situation. Body-cams can ensure understanding and give a sense of the reason that led the police to act that way in the context in question. It is up to the Government to implement the use of these at a Council level” he concluded.