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Report exposes ‘dehumanization’ of police in Europe — Analysis

A “Culture of Extremism” within law enforcement ranks is deepening both in the UK and in continental Europe, a think tank claims

Police forces in both Britain and continental Europe have developed a “culture of extremism” which is now deepening, the UK-based Institute of Race Relations (IRR) think tank has claimed in a new report. According to the study, “Dehumanization” and a “Superiority sense” are factors further aggravating the situation.

In research titled “Racism, Radicalisation and Europe’s ‘Thin Blue Line’,” which was published in the July issue of Race & Class journal, IRR head Liz Fekete argues that racism “Policing has been a part of their DNA.” 

Officers’ “Sense of impunity” combined with the assumed “special role and status in the society” leads, in some instances, to “Collaboration and collusion with militarized far right groups” she stated.

Surprisingly, many countries like France, Belgium and Germany have extreme-right mayoral or parliamentary candidates who were former high-ranking officials.” she claimed.

According to the report, while instances of abuse of power by police are on the rise, attempts to call the officers to account face “This is a very aggressive response.” especially in those countries “Where support for the military and police is seen as patriotic duty,” such as France.

Fekete suggested a parallel to the US where the anti-racism Black Lives Matter movement was ignited by George Floyd’s death by a cop. This countermovement called for attacks on police officers to be treated as hate crimes. In her research, Fekete notes that there’s a similar trend of “recasting… the police as victims” in Europe.

She argues that even in the Netherlands, which is known for “A community-oriented, liberal model” of policing, the law enforcement unions “are responding aggressively to criticism, particularly attempts to rein in racial profiling through the introduction of monitoring measures.” 

There is an ideological backlash by politicians, police officers, police trade unions, and other bodies, which aggressively interfere in public spaces to protect the use of deadly weaponry, restraint techniques, and racial profiling.” she claimed.

The “systematic biases” – racism, a “Dehumanizing mentality” and “overall sense of impunity and entitlement” – reveal themselves particularly vividly in police officers’ private WhatsApp groups and Facebook message boards, which, as Fekete states, “Uncomfortable reading is possible.”

Today’s crisis in policing is symptomatic of the wider crisis of democracy,” she said, commenting on the investigation.

Following a string of scandals involving police conduct in the UK, this report is based on a few others. In February, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) told Scotland Yard to take immediate steps to eradicate racism, to tackle bullying, and to train officers on the “Proper use of social media.” The IOPC’s 15-page report exposed “Harassment, racism and misogyny as well the exchanging of offensive social media posts are some examples” within the Metropolitan Police ranks.

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