Rotterdam police under fire after allegations of violent, racially-motivated arrests

After a family in Dordrecht alleged that officers used racial slurs against them during a violent arrest, the Rotterdam police force is facing an internal investigation. Under the leadership of the prosecution in Rotterdam, the bureau for safety, integrity and complaints from the Rotterdam police started an inquiry into their own police force concerning the events that occurred on December 5.

The lawyer representing the family, Justin Kötter, says to the NRC, “I can confirm that in our opinion multiple punishable offenses have been committed.” The incident in question occurred at around midnight when the first three police officers, two women and one man, were dispatched to the family’s home after a noise complaint about a barking dog.

Outside the apartment, a painter who is a Black man was working on the family’s home. In a report published by the NRC, the painter said he had been drinking that night. While police were trying to enter the flat, the painter reportedly called the male officer a ‘horse dick’ after the officer ignored him. The agent wanted to confront the intoxicated man at which point the family, consisting of a 45-year-old Black man, a 37-year-old white woman and their 18-year-old son, intervened. The painter fled from the home.

The events that followed are still unclear. Images were caught on camera footage, but the audio was incomplete.

All three family members were arrested during which pepper spray was used against the father. A police officer was reportedly heard ranting about “fucking negroes” in a recording taken from a nearby apartment. Another officer was accused of holding his legs around the neck of the 45-year-old man for one and a half minutes. When the man said, “I can’t breathe”, the officer allegedly replied, “I don’t give a fuck.”

Police received back up from colleagues. In total, ten police officers in uniform and two in plain clothes were present at the time.

The 18-year-old son claims that in the police car, officers said to him “You are already smeared in shit,” an apparent reference to the color of the teenager’s skin. “Why do you also smell like it?”

The father was detained for 18 days and his son for three. They will have to appear in court on January 14, with the father facing a charge of attempted manslaughter of a police officer. The mother was released after one day. Her case was already dropped.

The events caught on camera have missing audio or are inaudible at some points during the incident. The mother states that police were nervous after they became aware the incident was recorded. “You can see the officers were shocked. One said, ‘You called him a fucking negro. There are also recordings of that’,” said the mother to NRC.

“It is important to investigate what happened, what statements were made, by whom and under what circumstances. The police received the reports from [the family’s attorney] on Tuesday evening, December 29,” police said in a statement.

The remarks were a departure from a press release distributed a day after the event, which police headlined as, “Father and son attack officers in Dordrecht.” The authorities claimed at the time that the 45-year-old father tried to suffocate an officer. In the release, police team leader Joke Kajim speaks of an “extreme outbreak of violence by bystanders.”

In response to the allegations, a spokesperson for the Rotterdam police department said to the NRC, they are pursuing the case ‘with vigor’ and it is being handled ‘seriously and well’. Throughout the investigation, the officers in question will remain on duty.