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“What the police often does on the streets is guessing”

“What the police often does on the streets is guessing”

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A protest against police brutality in Minneapolis. Photo: Josh Hild via Pexels.

Lecture on ethnic profiling

What crime would you associate with a white and well-educated young man? And which one with a black rapper driving an expensive car? These are some of the questions the participants to the zoom lecture “Ethnic Profiling in the Netherlands” were asked. This event, that took place last Wednesday, was organized by Amnesty International in collaboration with Black Lives Matter Maastricht, and is part of the Anti-Racism Action Week, which started Monday 14th of September with the Vigil for Tomy Holten and will end on Sunday with the BLMM Protest.

Lecturer Stephanie Blom, teacher at the department of Criminal Law and Criminology of Maastricht University, focused on ethnic prejudices in criminal justice matters. With a series of exercises, which required the active participation of the virtual public, Blom proved how prejudices unconsciously affect all of us. She then explained that policemen are subject to the same biases and tend to associate different crimes with specific ethnic groups. “What the police often does on the streets is guessing” said Blom. This has consequences on their actions with strong repercussions on their targets, usually not the stereotypical white-Dutch people.

Due to budget cuts, Dutch police forces adopted means such as the Crime Anticipation System and the Dynamic Traffic Control. These rely on data driven algorithms based, according to Blom, on a very inaccurate data selection. A “sixth sense” and misguided assumptions, more than on objective factors, determine the functioning of the algorithm, she says. The consequence is over-policing in specific areas, such as poor and ethnic neighbourhoods and a stop and search policy out of proportion. Of the people stopped by the police, 50% is white-Dutch and the remaining 50% comprises all other ethnicities. However, Dutch whites are the 79,3% of the population.

People of colour who attended the lecture confirmed this tendency. “I always get the drug test at the airport. And my father too, he looks like the stereotypical terrorist with long hair and beard” an Indian girl participating to the lecture reported. But she is not the only one. Another participant revealed that the attitude of the police towards her changes depending on the group of friends she is with. “When I am with my Dutch friends, I never have problems, but if I am with a group of black boys, they start looking at us”, she said.

Racial discrimination does not happen only when dealing with police forces, it also affects every-day life and the working environment. Sameera van der Mijden, an Indian nurse who moved to the Netherlands when she was a child, is often targeted by her patients with racist comments. She says that her colleagues do not understand her struggle and she is lacking support. This is also the case for a Maastricht University student from the Caribbean. According to him, even though the Netherlands are a multi-ethnic country, there is still little space for minorities.

Ilaria Dereani

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