Conversations abound about racism in the ranks: Dutch police release a film

A documentary on discrimination in the Dutch police ranks has ignited a national discussion about racism in the Netherlands. Many officers and others hope it will lead to change.

Conversations abound about racism in the ranks: Dutch police release a film

A documentary on discrimination in the Dutch police ranks has ignited a national discussion about racism in the Netherlands. Many officers and others hope it will lead to change.

"The Blue Family" (or "De Blauwe Familie") in Dutch discusses the culture of fear and bullying in the national police force. The Dutch TV broadcast premiered it Monday on the second anniversary of George Floyd's death at the hands Minnesota police.

Peris Conrad, one the featured officers in the film, stated that "there is no way back."

Conrad was born in Surinam, a former Dutch colony. He dreamed of becoming a policeman as a child. Conrad moved to the Netherlands at the age of four and became a security guard after serving a time in the military.

He met police officers while working in that position. They were searching for information on crime in Surinamese communities. He was encouraged by the officers to join the force and he did. He served 26 years.

Conrad, who is Black recalled that in his first year of the police academy, his colleagues hung a photo of him with cell bars on it. The caption said: "Our monkey is in a cage."

Police officers were shown the film early and promised to take action.

Henk van Essen, Police Chief, stated that "the personal stories make it painfully obvious how large the impact (of racism) is and how long it will continue." We all have something we can do, not only the executives but also all 65,000 colleagues. Safety outside begins with safety inside.

Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz stated that there is no place for discrimination and racism in the police force. He spoke on Dutch talk-show "RTL Boulevard."

This week, the Dutch parliament voted with a large majority to place police officers under tighter supervision. They cited the recent suicides of three officers who had been complaining about discrimination.

A Dutch newspaper published last year messages from chats between police officers that included racist slurs and jokes about the death of non-whites. One officer responded to the shooting death of a 16 year-old girl in her high school's bike shed by writing "One less Turk".

The Netherlands' problems have a long history, just like other countries. According to a 1998 Ministry of Internal Affairs report, discrimination is driving police officers from the Netherlands with "migration" backgrounds. This means that they have at least one parent who was born outside of the country.

Only 14% of the Dutch police force meets this definition, while 24% of the Dutch population does. About 65,000 officers work for the National Police Corps.

Margot Snijders spent over 30 years in the national force. She also worked on diversity and inclusion efforts for many years. After many years of frustration, she decided to step down from her current role.

Snijders said that "people don't trust us" and "they don't want work for us," according to The Associated Press.

Two years ago George Floyd died in the United States. This sparked protests in the Netherlands and across the globe against racial injustice. Controle Alt Delete is an advocacy group that advocates for better law enforcement practices. It wanted to highlight the problems in the Dutch police force.

The documentary was produced and directed by Meral Uslu and Maria Mok, who were also onboard filmmakers.

Jan Struijs is the chairperson of the largest police union in the country. He said that racism and discrimination against LGBTQ people are common and widespread within the police ranks.

Struijs was also a part of the film. He told the AP that he hoped this would be a turning point in history.

The country's first article, which is posted at every police station, prohibits discrimination against any groups. The Dutch are open-minded and tolerant, and they consider themselves to be among the most open-minded people on the planet.

Although there hasn't been any significant criticism of "The Blue Family", those involved in the documentary appreciated the response.

Snijders stated, "I have been repeating the same things for many years. Only now do they get positive reactions."

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