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Tackling racism in the police

Report | Doc. 13384 | 10 January 2014

Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination
Rapporteur :
Mr David DAVIES, United Kingdom, EDG
Reference to committee: Doc. 12888, Reference 3863 of 27 April 2012. 2014 - First part-session


Racism does not spare any part of society and the police is no exception. Racism can be present in the attitudes or behaviour of police officers, in their interaction with the population or with other officers. It can also be found in rules and regulations applied by the police, which would in that case qualify as institutional racism. Among these, racial profiling is a special concern.

Council of Europe member States should have the courage to acknowledge and address the existence of racism in the police. They should set up independent complaints mechanisms and ensure that racist crimes by police officers are promptly investigated and adequately sanctioned, with a view to avoiding impunity, maintaining trust in the police and encouraging reporting. Member States should also review existing legislation and practices of the police with a view to identifying and modifying those that might have a racist connotation.

A Draft resolutionNote

1. Racism does not spare any level of society and no institution appears immune to racism. The police is no exception. Racism can be present in the attitudes or behaviour of police officers, in their interaction with the population or with other officers. It can also be found in rules and regulations applied by the police, which would in that case qualify as institutional racism.
2. Among these, the Parliamentary Assembly is particularly concerned about racial profiling. It corresponds to the use by the police, with no objective and reasonable justification, of grounds such as race, colour, language, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin in control, surveillance or investigation activities. Racist behaviour and practices within the police against visible minorities have a negative impact on public opinion and can increase stereotyping and prejudice.
3. Considering that the acknowledgement of the existence of a problem is the first step towards its solution, the Assembly encourages all member States to look at the situation in their respective countries and have the courage to acknowledge and address, when relevant, the existence of racism in the police. There can be no impunity for manifestations of racism within or by the police and police officers must be held accountable individually for their behaviour.
4. Few Council of Europe member States have established independent police complaints mechanisms. Effective and independent investigations of racist crimes should be conducted and treated as a priority in order to maintain trust in the police and to encourage reporting of such crimes.
5. The Assembly is convinced that concrete change will not happen if there is no change in mindsets and that political will can change cultural attitudes within the police. In addition, diversity training and lifelong learning contribute to ensuring that the police reflects and understands the population it serves. The Assembly acknowledges the difficulties and challenges faced by police officers in their daily work. They represent a link between the law and the population, which should have a high level of trust in them and never hesitate to report violence, including racist violence.
6. The Assembly recalls Committee of Ministers Recommendation Rec(2001)10 on a European code of police ethics and encourages the wide application of its principles. It also recalls the work of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and its General Policy Recommendation No. 11 on combating racism and racial discrimination in policing, which provides guidelines on ways to prevent racial discrimination and prohibit racial profiling.
7. In the light of these considerations, the Assembly calls on Council of Europe member States to:
7.1 with regard to preventing racism in the police:
7.1.1 review existing legislation and practices of the police with a view to identifying and modifying those that might have a racist connotation;
7.1.2 ask police forces which have not yet done so to adopt an internal code of conduct with regard to the prevention of racism;
7.1.3 encourage diversity in police recruitment;
7.1.4 provide training following recruitment and throughout each individual’s career on preventing and combating racism and racial discrimination, in addition to diversity training;
7.1.5 provide, when possible and relevant, language training classes to police officers to allow them to interact and exchange with the population they serve;
7.1.6 carry out research and collect information on racist incidents in the police, including the police reaction to acts of racism by the police so as to monitor the situation and ensure an appropriate institutional response;
7.1.7 provide the police with sufficient resources to work in satisfactory conditions and with absolute respect for the rights of the persons they deal with;
7.1.8 encourage the exchange of good practices between police forces in preventing racism;
7.2 with regard to condemning racism and prosecuting racist behaviour or incidents in the police:
7.2.1 urge political leaders and senior officers of the police forces to publicly condemn any form of racial discrimination;
7.2.2 establish independent police complaints mechanisms where they do not yet exist, allocate appropriate means for their functioning and ensure that sanctions are imposed on police officers following a racist incident;
7.2.3 investigate in a prompt, thorough, effective and impartial manner all allegations of racial discrimination, including by the police;
7.2.4 ask police officers to adopt a public profile and attitude, including on social networks, corresponding to the fundamental values of the police;
7.3 with regard to enhancing trust in the police;
7.3.1 implement the provisions of ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 11 on combating racism and racial discrimination in policing;
7.3.2 clearly define racial profiling, ensure its prohibition and provide specific training on identity checks to all police officers;
7.3.3 ensure that police officers wear a visible form of identification, such as identity numbers, at all times;
7.3.4 establish the practice of filling out stop forms following identity checks and searches, where it does not yet exist;
7.3.5 monitor identity checks and search operations;
7.3.6 encourage the establishment of police community liaison officers, where they do not yet exist;
7.3.7 encourage members of parliament and the police to enhance their interaction through regular consultations, including through appropriate parliamentary mechanisms.
8. The Assembly calls on civil society representatives to strengthen their dialogue with the police through regular consultations and other appropriate means.

B Explanatory memorandum by Mr Davies, rapporteur

1 Introduction

1. Racism and racial discrimination are among the most widespread human rights violations, affecting all levels of society. As Ms Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, “We must challenge racism at all levels – at the individual, institutional and cultural levels, as well as at the national and international. … Our societies must be grounded on the principles of equality and non-discrimination. Until this becomes a reality the dream of international peace, to paraphrase a famous musician, will remain a fleeting illusion”.Note
2. Europe is facing a number of challenges, with an economic and financial crisis affecting its political and democratic stability. On the one hand, the crisis is affecting the level of trust in the institutions; on the other, it is causing a surge in extremism, including intolerance and hostility against visible minorities.
3. Actions have been taken to prevent and combat racism but no sector appears to be immune to this phenomenon and the police are no exception. “Racism exists in society, it therefore also exists in the police”, highlighted Ms Deborah Glass, Deputy Chair of the United Kingdom’s Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) on 3 October 2012. In the past few years, the emergence in the public domain and the media of cases in which police officers have failed to perform their duties or breached the laws and regulations when dealing with people from visible minorities has raised awareness on this issue.
4. In the United Kingdom and across Europe, the Stephen Lawrence case raised the debate about issues of racism in the police and sparked a debate on how to address it. Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death in 1993 and his murderers were sentenced only 18 years later. Following the inquiry report (“the Macpherson report”), there was a recognition that there had been a collective failure in the investigation and institutional racism within the police forces. According to Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, former President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, “the gratuitous nature of the killing, the initial failure in the response of the police and the botched initial prosecution led to a complete overhaul of the approach to race relations in the United Kingdom, which has spilled over into the rest of the continent”.Note
5. Racist attitudes and behaviours within the police against visible minorities can have an impact on public opinion and increase the level of stereotyping and prejudice.Note

2 Origin, scope and aims of the report

6. The origin of this report is a motion for a resolution tabled by Tina Acketoft and others.Note The motion stresses that the Assembly should address the issue of racism in law-enforcement institutions, with a view to identifying best practices in Council of Europe member States on how to prevent this phenomenon and ensure transparency and accountability in the work of law-enforcement officials.
7. At its meeting on 3 October 2012 in Strasbourg, the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination agreed to narrow down the scope of the report to cover only the police, to the exclusion of other law-enforcement institutions. The title of the report was therefore changed to “Tackling racism in the police”. I have tried to take into account the specificities of the institutional framework in different member States.
8. In my report, I would like to be as fair and balanced as possible: I would like to acknowledge the dedication of the police and the difficult conditions in which they have to work; at the same time, I would like to outline attitudes and practices which are racist or borderline, with a view to proposing solutions and safeguards adopted in some member States. In a nutshell, the report looks both at individuals’ racism and institutional racism.
9. Evidence gathered in this report stems from desk research and a hearing held during a meeting of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination on 3 October 2012 in Strasbourg, with the participation of: Ms Deborah Glass, Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (United Kingdom); Mr Julien Le Gars, Deputy Director for public liberties, Ministry of the Interior (France); Ms Chantal Pons-Mesouaki, Deputy Secretary General of the Trade Union for public security officers (France); and Ms Lanna Hollo, Open Society Justice Initiative (France).
10. This report includes the results of three fact-finding visits. I went on a fact-finding visit to the United Kingdom on 10 and 11 December 2012, where I met with police officers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Commissioners of the IPCC, the Police Federation and representatives of New Scotland Yard. The report also includes results of a fact-finding visit to Greece on 12 and 13 June 2013 where I met with representatives of police federations, officials of the Ministry of Public Order, parliamentarians, the prosecutor in charge of racist crime, the Ombudsperson and Deputy Ombudsperson, NGOs, asylum seekers, refugees and lawyers. On 28 and 29 October 2013, I went on a fact-finding visit to Germany where I met police officers, parliamentarians, representatives of the police trade unions, representatives of the German Institute for Human Rights, police trainers, asylum seekers and NGOs. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the delegations of the United Kingdom, Greece and Germany to the Parliamentary Assembly for their support and excellent co-operation during the fact-finding visits.

3 Definitions

11. Racism, racial discrimination and institutional racism have a variety of definitions. According to the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), “‘racism” shall mean the belief that a ground such as race, colour, language, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin justifies contempt for a person or a group of persons, or the notion of superiority of a person or a group of persons”.Note
12. In the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.Note
13. Racial discrimination can be direct or indirect. According to the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”), there must be a difference in the treatment of persons in relevantly similar situations in order for an issue to be qualified as direct discrimination. “Such a difference of treatment is discriminatory if it has no objective and reasonable justification; in other words, if it does not pursue a legitimate aim or if there is not a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be realised”.Note With regard to indirect discrimination, the Court has stated that “a difference in treatment may take the form of disproportionately prejudicial effects of a general policy or measure which, though couched in neutral terms, discriminates against a group”.Note
14. There can be two types of racism in the police. The first type relates to the attitudes, behaviours and beliefs of police officers. The second type is inherent to rules and regulations which are applied by the police and is commonly defined as institutional racism. The 1999 Macpherson report on the death of Stephen Lawrence, defines institutional racism as “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racial stereotyping which disadvantaged minority ethnic people”.Note Institutional racism does not mean that all officers working in the institution have racist behaviour, but that racism lies in the procedures and culture of the institution.

4 Situation in some Council of Europe member States

15. There is not the same awareness that there might be a problem of racism within the police in all Council of Europe member States. The United Kingdom has managed to acknowledge the phenomenon and identify solutions. In other States, raising the issue is at times perceived as an attack on the police institution and criticism does not come from the authorities themselves, but rather from NGOs and sometimes the population directly.
16. Identity checks, aimed at checking the identity of an individual when there might be a suspicion of an infraction, are among the most delicate procedures. On the one hand, the relevant regulations are considered as potentially racist because they are based on profiling. On the other, police officers have been accused of assuming racist attitudes in the conduct of such checks.
17. I would also like to clarify the definition of racial profiling, which shall mean “the use by the police, with no objective and reasonable justification, of grounds such as race, colour, language, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin in control, surveillance or investigation activities”.Note
18. Also the different way in which police officers deal with the people with whom they come into contact can be a sign of racist attitudes. The individual behaviour of law-enforcement officers can reflect racism, in the words used, and remarks and comments made. In addition, verbal threats and the use of force against people from visible minorities can be a manifestation of a racist attitude.
19. I will hereafter present the situation in several Council of Europe member States as a result of my research and fact-finding visits, presenting actions taken to acknowledge, prevent, combat, condemn and sanction racism in the police.

4.1 Austria

20. Already in 2002, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, in a decree also foreseeing the provision of human rights training to police officers, acknowledged the existence of racism in the police by calling for the use of non-discriminatory language and expressions by law-enforcement officers. In addition, a special recruitment campaign “Vienna needs you” aimed at diversifying the ethnic composition of the police force in the capital. In April 2010, a Unit for Minority Contacts (Referat für Minderheitenkontakte) was established at the Federal Police Directorate in Vienna.Note I also wish to welcome the commitment made by Austria to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to prosecute racist behaviour of police officers under criminal and/or administrative law.Note
21. In a 2012 briefing on Austria to the CERD, Amnesty International highlighted the level of prejudice against visible minorities by reporting that “foreign nationals and members of ethnic minorities are more at risk than Austrian citizens of being suspected of having committed crimes and of being ill-treated by police … and that the failure of the police and judicial organs to extend the same quality of service to foreign nationals and members of ethnic minorities is the result of institutional racism”.Note CERD itself expressed concern with regard to reports of racial profiling.Note
22. In its 2012 report on Austria, ECRI called for the establishment of an independent body with powers to investigate individual complaints of human rights violations on the part of the police, including acts of racism and racial discrimination. The independent Federal Bureau of Anti-Corruption (Bundesamt zur Korruptionsprävention – BAK), established on 1 January 2010, and the Central Public Prosecutor’s Office for the prosecution of commercial criminal matters and corruption (WKStA) established on 1 September 2011, can investigate on abuse of authority comprising racial discrimination, but they do not form an independent complaints mechanism.Note

4.2 France

23. Discussing the existence of racism within the police remains a sensitive issue. At the same time, police officers feel there is a strong anti-police prejudice within the population. Mr Le Gars, Deputy Director for public liberties at the French Ministry of the Interior, stressed during our hearing in Strasbourg on 3 October 2012 that fighting racism and anti-Semitism was a top priority for the French Government and that French police and gendarmerie forces co-operate with public agencies to fight against racism. The Ministry of the Interior reports yearly to the National Consultative Commission for Human Rights on its action against racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
24. I welcome the efforts made to diversify the recruitment of police officers in France. No statistic data is available on the composition of police forces, but it is estimated that 10% of staff are people of migrant origin. Training is provided to all members of police forces to help them develop communication skills and establish an open dialogue with the population.Note
25. Complaints against the police can be made to the French Rights Defender, who is independent from the police. He received 475 complaints against law-enforcement officials in 2012 (police, gendarmerie, customs) overall. However there is no information with regard to the number of complaints dealing with cases of racial discrimination.Note
26. The number and frequency of identity controls is a controversial matter in France. NGOs and international bodies such as ECRI have issued recommendations on this issue. Human Rights Watch has publicly voiced concern at what it defines as abusive practices during identity checks in France: “Statistical and anecdotal evidence suggest that the police make decisions about whom to stop based on appearance, including race and ethnicity, rather than on an individual’s actual behaviour.”Note Checking the identity of a person is not a racist procedure, but checking several times a day the identity of the same individual may indicate that a visible minority is being targeted. Research conducted by the Open Society Justice Initiative together with the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in Paris showed that people of Arab origin were checked eight times more, and a black person six times more than a white person.Note
27. Under the current government, French authorities considered using receipts for identity checks, but decided not to pursue it. This decision was criticised by human rights organisations, including Mr Dominique Baudis, French Rights Defender, who stressed that proper documentation of police stops was essential in order to eliminate discrimination or the suspicion of discrimination.Note A positive development includes the release of a new code of conduct (code de déontologie) for the police on 6 December 2012. According to this new code, police officers have to be careful how they express themselves and are no longer allowed to use the familiar form “tu” when addressing someone for an identity check or any other kind of operation.
28. On 19 July 2013, an identity check of two women wearing the integral veil in Trappes triggered criticism about the attitude of the police officers, which was qualified as racist. The identity check triggered violence and protests, with allegations of an excessive use of force by the police. Following this incident, racist remarks on an unofficial police facebook forum were condemned by senior police officials. Nevertheless, “France has yet to have an equivalent to the Stephen Lawrence case, a watershed moment in which the entire police force is made to confront its racist elements”.Note

4.3 Germany

29. The discussion about the existence of racism within the German police gained attention with the NSU (National Socialist Underground) case, which is now on trial. It concerned a series of murders between 2000 and 2006, with eight victims of Turkish origin, one of Greek origin and a police officer. The alleged perpetrators were a group of three NSU members. My fact-finding visit to Germany followed the publication of the conclusions of the parliamentary Inquiry Committee on this case. Dr Ewa Högl, member of the Inquiry Committee, stressed that the report’s conclusions had shown that the police had failed to recognise that the crime could have had racist motives and that it was not aware of the seriousness of the threat presented by the NSU group to the population. This case has damaged the overall trust in the police. However, I have been informed that the police did not admit that there had been mistakes. People I have met told me that ordinary police officers would tend to assume that a victim with a foreign background might have had some criminal activity. Whenever migrants are being killed, the police often tends to assume that perpetrators are from the same ethnic group or among close relationships.Note
30. Dr Beate Rudolf, Head of the German Institute for Human Rights, stressed during our meeting that there were structures and procedures within the police that could lead to racism and racial discrimination. The issue of racial profiling indeed triggers debate in Germany. While police trade union representatives clearly explained that skin colour could be a criterion for conducting a search operation, Mr Dieter Romann, Head of the Federal Police, Mr Bernd Krömer, Permanent Secretary at the Senate Department for the Interior, and Mr Claus Kandt, Berlin Chief of Police, denied such a practice was in place.Note Mr Rainer Wendt, Federal Chairman of the German police trade union (Deutsche Polizeigewerkschaft), stated it was normal to control persons who looked like they might be foreigners in border areas. Several police officers talked to me about trusting their “gut feeling” to select persons for identity checks. After establishing that an area could potentially present dangers, the police receive increased powers and can carry out extensive identity checks.
31. Amnesty International reported on police misconduct in the report “Unknown assailant: Insufficient investigation into alleged ill-treatment by police in Germany”, released in 2010.Note One of the major problems noted in the report was the absence of identification numbers for police officers. Wearing identification is not currently mandatory in Germany and trade unions appeared reticent about the idea of having one. In Berlin, I saw officers wearing either a badge with an identification number or with their name. I would rather encourage the use of an identification number, in order to avoid the stigmatisation of a police officer because of his or her name.
32. ECRI deplored in 2009 the absence of an independent investigation mechanism to deal with complaints against the police, notably following the death of members of visible minorities while in police custody.Note There is to date no comprehensive police complaints mechanism overseeing the work of all police forces. A person who would like to complain against an officer for racist behaviour can file a complaint in a police station. However, Human Rights Watch reported that many victims did not trust the police and would therefore not make a complaint at a station. A complaint can also be made via mail and an online form. Trade union representatives were against an independent complaints mechanism.
33. The German police are looking, at Federal and regional levels, to diversify recruitment. 12% of the police officers working in Berlin are of Turkish origin and the police was looking into the recruitment of Polish police officers.
34. While I met several officers who were fluent in several languages, the asylum seekers at the protest camp in Oranienplatz told me that police officers only spoke German to them, which I could not verify. Several officers I spoke to shared their concern with regard to the negative attitude of the population towards them and lack of trust in the police.
35. Police forces (except Federal police) receive training at the State (Land) level and each State is responsible for the training curriculum. New recruits receive training on intercultural competence and respect, with a view to learning how to avoid confrontational situations. The training aims at improving dialogue between police and minorities, encouraging the acceptance of diversity and raising awareness of cultural perceptions. I visited the Brandenburg Police College, located in buildings where the wardens of all concentration camps had been trained. The history of the training centre, close to the concentration camp of Oranienburg, is a permanent reminder of the urgency to combat racism and its roots. I was particularly moved by the presentation of Mr Rainer Grieger, Director of the training centre, who stressed that the police officers were not guilty for the past but responsible for the future.
36. I welcome the openness and would like to praise the dedication of all the police officers I met during the visit. Trade unions and officers themselves have expressed their readiness to welcome civil society representatives to observe their work and I would encourage further steps in this direction.

4.4 Greece

37. In order to understand the situation in Greece, one must look at the context, which is an unprecedented economic and social crisis combined with a high level of immigration, Greece being the main entry point into the European Union. The crisis has triggered an overall negative climate against migrants. Negative stereotyping of migrants within the population has undoubtedly had an influence on the police and has contributed to exacerbating tensions. According to Mr Kostis Papaioannou, Head of the Greek Commission for Human and Civic Rights, “In recent years, the number of violent crimes with a racist background has not increased dramatically, but their rising intensity is alarming”.Note He stressed that racist violence was increasingly reflected in the structure of the State.
38. Over the past few years, human rights organisations have reported allegations of ill treatment and racist behaviour by the police. According to ECRI, there are also complaints about alleged police inaction over racially motivated crimes and prejudice towards immigrants. In 2011, the United Nations Refugee Agency and the National Commission for Human Rights created the Racist Violence Recording Network, with a view to monitoring racist incidents in Greece. Twenty-three NGOs and other bodies providing legal, medical or social support services to victims of racist violence are now part of it.Note Between January and September 2012, the Racist Violence Recording Network documented 87 incidents of racist violence, including 15 incidents where police and racist violence were interlinked.Note
39. During the summer of 2012, the Greek government launched operation Xenios Zeus, with a view to conducting identity checks to verify the status of migrants. According to information collected by Human Rights Watch, 85 000 persons of foreign origin were stopped by the police and taken to a police station for a control of their identity papers between 4 August 2012 and 22 February 2013. Only 6% (4 811) were found to be residing unlawfully in Greece.Note No criterion has been defined to conduct stop and search operations. Ms Calliope Spanou, Ombudsperson, had confirmed to me her feeling that the police had used racial profiling.Note
40. During my visit at the Omonia police station on 12 June 2013, I asked to also visit cells for temporary custody. I there met irregular migrants from Bangladesh, Iraq and Nigeria. Some of them had been in temporary detention for almost a year in difficult conditions, which have been qualified as “shameful” by Mr Christos Fotopoulos, President of the Panhellenic Federation of Police.Note Detainees reported to me that some officers had treated them with lack of respect. However, they also told me that some officers demonstrated care in their interactions with them and collected money among colleagues to provide them with food, water or cigarettes.
41. According to Human Rights Watch, undocumented migrants are routinely discouraged from filing official complaints. During my meeting with refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, I received the confirmation that victims are afraid to report racist incidents to the police. Mr Nikolaos Ornerakis, Athens prosecutor in charge of racist crime, confirmed that a fee of €100 was requested in order to file a complaint.Note The fee was established with a view to discouraging “frivolous complaints”.Note The hotline to which racist incidents can be reported is not a free number.
42. A refugee from Iran reported to me that, in the course of an identity check, the police had opened his bag without permission, forcibly took his mobile phone and told him he would not be able to make a phone call. I also received reports of racist insults made by police officers against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.Note One refugee from Afghanistan told me he had never been stopped for an identity check. During the visit, I was told about a search operation with police officers entering a bus and asking for all black people to get out.
43. I would like to mention several measures taken by the authorities to prevent and combat racism in policing. A Code of Police Ethics is in force and an order was issued in 2004 on the use of non-degrading terms by the police against Roma. The Chief of the Police also issued a circular order in 2006 on “Tackling of racism, xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance in the police”. According to the circular order, “racist motivation is investigated in the following cases: a) it is confessed by the alleged perpetrators, b) it is invoked by victims and witnesses, c) there is an evidence according to the Code of Criminal Procedure, d) the alleged perpetrators and victims of a crime identify themselves or belong to different racial, religious and social groups. Furthermore the circular established an obligation for officers to investigate possible racial motivation in the context of the disciplinary procedure involving unethical behaviour of police officers against persons belonging to vulnerable ethnic, religious or social groups or foreigners. In this case, the outcome of the disciplinary inquiries should mention whether any racial motivation has been established. However, in order to strengthen their regulatory nature and perception as compulsory for the police, they should be introduced in the Police Code of Conduct”.Note
44. In March 2011, Law No. 3938/2011 was introduced providing among other things for the establishment, in the Ministry of Citizens’ Protection, of an Office for Incidents of Arbitrary Conduct by Law Enforcement Officials. I received confirmation during my visit that this office has not operated to date due to a lack of funding and staff. There is to date no independent complaints mechanism investigating police misconduct.
45. The post of Athens anti-racism Prosecutor was created at the end of 2012. Mr Nikolaos Ornerakis, who has been appointed to this post, confirmed during our meeting that his position was established with a view to combating the phenomenon of racism. He is however working alone.Note
46. Human rights courses, including on racism and xenophobia, are part of the training curriculum for police officers, but are only theoretical. They do not teach concrete techniques for investigating hate crimes.
47. In January 2013, the Ministry of the Interior created 70 special police units for the reporting of racist incidents, with 200 officers throughout the country. However, they have received little training so far. Some trade unions took the initiative of organising their own training on combating racism. I have engaged in straightforward discussions with all interlocutors during my fact-finding visit and would like to stress that there is an acknowledgement of the existence of racism in the Greek police by officers themselves.
48. At the end of his visit to Greece on 1 February 2013, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, called on the police to give effect to existing anti-racism legislation and urged the Ministry of Public Order to take all necessary measures to create an independent and effective police complaints mechanism.Note
49. The association of police officers with racist and xenophobic parties and organisations is a worrying phenomenon. Surveys suggest that an important number of police officers voted for the political party Golden Dawn in Greece at the last parliamentary elections. Golden Dawn has been praising the police and its role in the past few years, which has been positively perceived in an overall negative climate against the police. This may however discourage victims from filing complaints for racism.Note
50. The murder of the rapper and anti-fascist activist Pavlos Fyssas, allegedly by a supporter of Golden Dawn on 18 September 2013, led to a political condemnation of racist crimes and to the opening of an investigation on the link between police forces and Golden Dawn. The government replaced several senior police officials, including the chiefs of special forces, internal security and organised crime in order to ensure absolute objectivity.Note On 30 October 2013, Panagiotis Stathis, Head of the Police Internal Affairs Unit, announced that 10 police officers were found to have “direct or indirect involvement with the criminal activities of Golden Dawn”.Note

4.5 Hungary

51. The United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern at the persistent ill-treatment and racial profiling of the Roma by the police in Hungary.Note Measures have been taken to increase the diversity of the police force.Note Human rights training for the police includes tolerance and dealing with cases involving members of minority groups.

4.6 Norway

52. Racial profiling in stop and search operations by the police is still common in Norway according to information received by ECRI. Police prosecutors with special responsibility for cases of racism and racial discrimination have been appointed in the 27 districts since July 2004.Note

4.7 Portugal

53. According to ECRI, cases of police harassment, misconduct and abuses against Roma have been reported in Portugal.Note ECRI also received official information according to which from 2006 until 2012, a total of 31 complaints were submitted against police officers concerning racist or racially discriminatory acts under Law No. 18/2004. Fifteen cases were recommended for criminal or disciplinary proceedings following investigations conducted by General Inspectorate of Internal Administration (IGAI).Note

4.8 Russian Federation

54. The Russian Constitution prohibits all forms of restrictions on the rights of citizens on social, racial, ethnic, linguistic or religious grounds. Nevertheless, national and international human rights organisations regularly reported on harassment and intimidation of ethnic minorities by the police, in addition to indifference to racist attacks.Note An Amnesty International report, entitled “Russian Federation: Violent racism out of control” (2006), included examples of police and prosecutors routinely classifying murders and serious assaults by skinhead extremists as lesser crimes of “hooliganism”.Note In 2006, ECRI noted “patterns of police misbehaviour and a lack of awareness of the police and the prosecutors about what should be considered as racist”.Note
55. At its 82nd session on 1 March 2013, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reported that “ethnic minorities, on the basis of their appearance, such as Chechens and other persons originating from the Caucasus, Central Asia or Africa, as well as Roma continue to be subject to disproportionately frequent identity checks, arbitrary arrests and detention, and harassment by the police and other law enforcement officials”. CERD also received reports of “extortion of bribes, confiscation of identity documents, and the use of violence and racial insults during identity checks, as well as by the lack of effective investigation, prosecution and sanctioning of law enforcement personnel for such misconduct, abuse of or discrimination against ethnic minorities”. In addition, CERD expressed concern with regard to the “information that voluntary ‘Cossack patrols’ began to appear in 2012 in various regions to carry out law enforcement functions alongside the police, and that there have been incidents of use of violence by them against ethnic or religious minorities”.Note
56. In its third report published in 2013, ECRI highlighted that “allegations of police misconduct against persons belonging to vulnerable groups and disproportionately frequent identity checks, arrests and harassment concerning Roma, North Caucasians, migrants and Black people, continue to be reported … Racial profiling should be clearly defined and prohibited by law. The authorities should ensure that there is a body competent to investigate all complaints against the police involving allegations of racial discrimination”. ECRI also stated that people from Central Asia were 22 times more likely than others to be stopped and searched by the police.
57. ECRI has reported that the Investigative Committee, a federal agency established in September 2007, became independent and reports since January 2011 directly to the President. This Committee has powers of investigation into serious crime, violent crime and corruption, including by law-enforcement officials. A 24-hour telephone hotline and an Internet site for lodging complaints have also been set up.
58. In July 2013, the Moscow police launched a sweep operation arresting over 4 000 people by targeting places where migrants would gather and allegedly using racial profiling. Nationals who did not have a Slavic appearance were systematically controlled. “Nothing can justify massive detentions based on ethnic profiling”, stressed Ms Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch.Note
59. The dismissal of a migration official over racist comments in a media interview sent a positive signal.Note Another encouraging step has been the entry into force of Federal Law No. 3-FZ on Police on 1 March 2012, which stipulates that the police shall “protect the rights, freedoms and legal interests of a person and a citizen regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, language and origin” (Article 7).Note I also welcome the condemnation of racism by the Russian authorities in their submission to CERD in 2012Note and their announcement that tackling racism would be a priority during their membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

4.9 Spain

60. In Spain, Amnesty International has criticised the Spanish police for openly targeting visible minorities for identity checks, with a detention period following arrest of up to 72 hours for a thorough check. Spanish police officers are obliged to wear an identification badge. However, they often wear jackets which hide their identification numbers.

4.10 Sweden

61. In January 2011, a unit distinct from the regional police authorities was set up within the National Police Board in order to handle complaints of police misconduct.Note Stressing that victims of police misconduct often lacked confidence in the police, ECRI recommended the establishment of an independent body entrusted with carrying out investigations of alleged police misconduct, including acts of racism or racial discrimination.Note During the May 2013 riots in Stockholm, police officers were accused of using racist language.Note
62. In September 2013, the discovery of a police database with the names of more than 4 000 Roma including children, profoundly shocked public opinion and triggered strong international reactions. Ethnic registration is illegal in Sweden and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5). “The existence of Roma-records within government agencies as the police is alarming. The existence of ethnic- based records may point to the existence and acceptance of racial profiling as a working method within the police.”Note In reaction, National Police Commissioner Bengt Svenson asked all police heads to review their own databases. On 15 November 2013, the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protection (Säkerhets- och integritetsskyddsnämnden – SIN), which investigated on this issue, ruled that there had been irregularities and that the list had been established for no clear reasons, the original intention being to map social and family networks around persons suspected of crime.

4.11 United Kingdom

63. In the United Kingdom, the Stephen Lawrence case has profoundly changed the functioning of the police. There is a general acknowledgement that the problem of racism is complex and still exists. Since 1986, police officers hand out forms to individuals whose identity has already been checked so as to avoid multiple identity checks on the same person the same day. The form includes details of the officer who has carried out the identity check. There have, however, been complaints that the form filled out by police officers is too detailed. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is of the opinion that handing out such receipts has had a positive effect. However, the organisation Inquest noted that such receipts were not handed out systematically during identity checks.Note According to Ms Deborah Glass, Deputy Head of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, young black men were seven times more likely to be checked in the United Kingdom.
64. Statistics regarding identity checks need to be treated carefully to avoid inflaming tensions. In London, I heard strong evidence that ethnic minorities were more likely to be stopped by police then the majority (white) population. This is probably true, but I would like a few other facts to be considered. The police will generally have a higher presence in areas of high crime. These may be areas with a higher proportion of ethnic minorities, but not necessarily.
65. We have heard evidence from NGOs that members of ethnic minorities are routinely singled out for identity checks and searches in London, with some complaining of being stopped multiple times during a single day. We have no reason to disbelieve the stories of any individual and some have given testimony which is very worrying. At the same time, one must bear in mind that it would be mathematically impossible for the police to be systematically stopping all non-white people in a city like London.Note This suggests that other factors such as clothing, appearance or age are to some extent responsible for the fact that some people are frequently stopped by the police.
66. The Police Federation of England and Wales recognises there are still pockets of racism in the police. The police officers whom I met during the fact-finding visit suggested that a change of attitude was possible and that the situation had dramatically improved over the last two decades.
67. A report released by the IPCC on 16 July 2013 stated that the Metropolitan police had failed to deal effectively with complaints of racism.Note 3% of complaints against the Metropolitan police involve claims of racism. According to this study, 511 racism complaints were made against officers from April 2011 to May 2012.Note “There needs to be a cultural change in the way the service deals with complaints in general, and in particular in its understanding of the nature and manifestations of racist behaviour” stresses the report.

5 Prevention

68. The prevention of racism in the police should be the key objective. Promoting diversity in the recruitment of police officers is an essential measure to ensure that the composition of the police reflects the composition of the population.
69. In France, 10% of police officers are of foreign origin.Note Minority police officers represent 5% of the total police forces in England and Wales. This percentage goes up to 10% for police community support officers (PCSOs) and to 15% in the Crown Prosecution Service.Note Ensuring the representation of minority officers throughout the police forces and the levels of management is of utmost importance. However, the level of retention of new ethnic minority officers remains poor. Twice as many ethnic minority recruits drop out in their first six months of service compared to their white counterparts. In addition, the progression in career of minority officers does not match the progression of white officers.Note More efforts should be made to promote a positive image of the police, since working in the police may be considered as a risky position, or not a respectable career, notably for women. According to Mr Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor, “entering the police could still be a challenge for someone from a minority community”.
70. Diversifying the recruitment of officers should be done by setting targets, not quotas. I strongly believe that minority leaders have a role to play in encouraging persons from a given minority to join the police, highlighting the importance of having someone from one’s community represented. I would also encourage the establishment of the status of “reserve” police officers, for example Special Constables in the United Kingdom. This kind of status could encourage members of minority communities to join the police without making a commitment to join as a full-time officer.
71. Disciplinary measures should be taken whenever an officer makes racist remarks. The fact that sanctions against police officers who are found guilty of racist behaviour are taken and effectively implemented can have an important dissuasive effect. Together with open discussion, it can also help police officers to challenge their own stereotypes and habits. In the United Kingdom, police officers are made aware that they will face disciplinary action, including dismissal, for racist behaviour. They may also face prosecution. However I was informed that while some judicial proceedings had been initiated, they did not often lead to convictions.Note I would also like to stress that it might be difficult to ascertain what has taken place when one person makes allegations about the words used by another without the presence of an independent witness.
72. Promoting an equality and diversity culture should also be a priority. Diversity and racial awareness training is often presented as one of the solutions, but sufficient means must be invested in such training so as to trigger a change of mentalities and attitudes. Any police officer should be able to assist any victim. Diversity training upon recruitment and throughout an individual’s career are necessary to help the police understand better the population it serves, with training tailored to the specific context. Language training can also be provided to officers when relevant.
73. In its Recommendation XIII, CERD called on States to provide law-enforcement officials with “intensive training to ensure that in the performance of their duties they respect as well as protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin”.Note Specific training modules on preventing and combating so-called “honour” crimes could also be included. In addition, specific tests on diversity during the recruitment process help to identify potential risks and prevent the recruitment of potentially racist officers. Respect for diversity should also be an element taken into consideration for career progress.

6 Promoting trust in the police

74. Acts of racism by the police or a lack of prosecution of these acts can decrease the level of confidence in the police and have a negative impact on people’s willingness to go to the police. The perception of the police can influence the population’s level of trust in its services. According to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the police seems to suffer from an image of being conservative, racist and with a backwards mentality. This stereotype does not reflect reality. A survey conducted in France in March 2011, in the framework of the Euro-justis project, showed that more than 74% of the people surveyed trusted the police, but 40% of them qualified police officers as racist.Note
75. Tackling racism means re-establishing trust and confidence between the police and the population it serves. It has a positive effect on both the police and the population. A relation of trust between the population and the police needs to be embedded over a long period of time, with a day-to-day engagement. I am convinced that engaging with communities can contribute to maintaining community confidence. Explaining decisions and procedures, and keeping families informed about prosecution processes can have a positive impact. The role of family liaison officers has been essential to maintain confidence in the police in the United Kingdom. In Ireland, 349 ethnic liaison officers liaise between leaders of ethnic communities and the Garda Siochána (Police).Note This function could be promoted in other Council of Europe member States.
76. In the United Kingdom, police officers engaged in identity checks have sometimes asked members of the local community to act as neutral observers. This encourages courteous behaviour from the police and can give those being targeted the confidence that they are not being unfairly singled out. I would also strongly recommend increasing interaction between the police, NGOs and parliamentarians, allowing them to observe some of the police activities in order to better understand the work of the police and the challenges faced.
77. There is evidence that vulnerable groups from within minority communities, in particular women, have faced difficulties when trying to report crimes to the police. There may be grounds for having specially trained police officers who can deal with reporting crimes such as domestic violence, forced marriage or female genital mutilation. Also, some officers might have been reluctant to deal with some cases because of concerns that they would be accused of racism. I am of the opinion that the fear of being accused of racism must never prevent investigations of serious crimes.
78. Identity checks can be among the most controversial and lead to possible tensions. Police officers need to be aware of the need for courtesy when carrying out identity checks. It is in their own interest to be respectful as failing to do so makes the job of policing harder.
79. Commissioner Mike Franklin, South-East Commissioner at the Independent Police Complaints Commission, stressed that young people did not trust the police and did not believe the police was there to help them. Senior police management’s dedication to diversity and to combating racism is essential to establish trust. Their strong and public condemnation of any form of racial discrimination is therefore essential.
80. The Open Society Initiative and the Police Federation stressed that more support should be provided to police officers on how to deal with violent situations. After several stops, the persons stopped may answer aggressively to the police, which might be difficult to handle without appropriate training.
81. Internal control mechanisms to check how victims are welcomed when reporting a complaint have also proved efficient.
82. Other best practices include ensuring transparency and impartiality in procedures, the establishment of oversight mechanisms and effective support to investigations and complaints mechanisms.

7 Complaints mechanisms

83. The former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, stressed at an expert workshop on “Police complaints mechanisms: ensuring independence and effectiveness” that in a democratic society, there must be accountability and effective investigation of complaints in order for trust and confidence to exist between the police and the population.Note Complaints mechanisms for victims exist in several member States. They can be established within ordinary courts, within the police itself or set up as independent institutions.
84. The Belgian Standing Police Monitoring Committee (Committee P) was created in 1991 as an external body responsible for monitoring the police and reporting to the Federal Parliament. Committee P monitors the police at the local and federal levels. It investigated six complaints of racist conduct by members of the police in 2011 (three in 2010), compared to 45 complaints of violence.Note
85. Another example of an independent institution is the Independent Police Complaints Commission; established in 2004.Note The IPCC reminds the police of its responsibility to deal with racism from the inside. Its establishment follows a recommendation of the 1999 Macpherson report on the death of Stephen Lawrence. The IPCC has a double role as a first instance complaints body and an ombudsman.Note It relies on its own investigators to look into the most serious complaints and allegations of misconduct against the police in England and Wales. It can refer a matter to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether criminal proceedings should follow. The IPCC has also the power to recommend and direct disciplinary proceedings.Note
86. The IPCC tries to look for a range of innovative solutions to tackle racism. They include explaining that dealing with racism is in the common interest, raising awareness on diversity issues, demonstrating fairness and respect at every step of every procedure and encouraging apologies after incidents. The establishment of an institution such as the IPCC demonstrates the concern of the police, and its willingness to build confidence and a relationship of trust and respect.
87. In Ireland, the Garda Síochána (Police) Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) was established under the Garda Síochána (Police) Act of 2005.Note It can investigate independently complaints against police officers. In 2011, the GSOC received 25 complaints of alleged discrimination on the ground of race, which has been the most common ground since 2007.Note
88. In 2007, the Hungarian authorities created the Independent Police Complaints Board of Hungary (IPCB), an independent agency of the Hungarian Parliament which started its work in 2008. The IPCB is composed of five members elected by Parliament for a six-year, non-renewable term.Note Any person can lodge a complaint with the Board against a member or members of the police force for alleged human rights violations.

8 International instruments

89. ECRI’s General Policy Recommendation No. 11 on combating racism and racial discrimination in policingNote deals specifically with tackling racism in the police. It recommends that member States “clearly define and prohibit racial profiling by law”,Note carry out research on racial profiling, train the police on the issue of racial profiling, ensure that legislation prohibiting direct and indirect racial discrimination covers the activities of the police, ensure effective investigations into alleged cases of racial discrimination or racially motivated misconduct by the police and ensure, as necessary, that the perpetrators of these acts are adequately punished, and provide for a body, independent of the police and prosecution authorities, entrusted with the investigation of alleged cases of racial discrimination and racially motivated misconduct by the police. A system should be established to record and monitor complaints in order for victims to feel supported when reporting incidents. A framework for co-operation between the police and members of minority groups is also encouraged. ECRI monitors the implementation of the recommendation during its monitoring visits.
90. The European police code of ethics was presented in Recommendation Rec(2001)10. It stresses the importance of taking full account of the need to challenge and combat racism and xenophobia in police training (paragraph 30). “Police training should challenge any racist or xenophobic attitudes within the police organisation, and also emphasise the importance of effective police action against crimes which are based on race hated and target ethnic minorities.”Note In addition, I look forward to the debate on the proposal of the European Commission to establish a European law enforcement training scheme, with an important role foreseen for the Fundamental Rights Agency to conduct training programmes.Note
91. CERD General Recommendation XXXI on the prevention of racial discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system (2005)Note asks States Parties to pay attention to the following indicators of racial discrimination: “the number and percentage of persons belonging to racial or ethnic groups who are victims of aggression or other offences, especially when they are committed by police officers or other State officials”; “the absence or small number of complaints, prosecutions and convictions relating to acts of racial discrimination in the country”, which could reflect a lack of information, a fear of reprisals or a lack of trust in the police and “the insufficient representation of persons belonging to those groups among the ranks of the police, in the system of justice, including judges and jurors, and in other law enforcement departments.” The general recommendation also stresses the right and duty of a police officer to refuse to obey orders that would require him or her to commit human rights violations.

9 Conclusions

92. In this report, I have tried to highlight the situation in several Council of Europe member States with a view to having an overall vision of the context. Racism is present in society and therefore also in the police, and no country appears immune to it.
93. In some countries, there has been significant progress to tackle racism in the police following an acknowledgement of the existence of a problem with the establishment of efficient independent police complaints mechanisms, prompt investigations, training of police officers, recruitment of officers from minority communities and the creation of positions of community liaison officer.
94. At the same time, however, I am concerned about the situation in some Council of Europe member States, where an increase in racism within the police has corresponded to a rise of racism and racist violence in society.
95. I consider that police officers are not only guaranteeing the respect of rule of law, they are also defenders of human dignity. We should highlight the multiple dimensions of their roles and help them fulfil them in the best possible way, by allocating sufficient resources for the functioning of the police, providing quality training on human rights and diversity and by calling for greater interaction with parliamentarians and civil society. They are the link between the law and the population, which should have a high level of trust in them in order never to hesitate to report violence, including racist violence. I therefore urge political leaders and senior managers of the police forces to publicly condemn any form of racial discrimination.
96. Identity checks deserve special attention in order to prevent racial discrimination. Member States should invest in regulating identity check operations by preparing clear rules, ensuring regular control and providing specific training on how to conduct them.
97. I encourage the police to open up to non-governmental organisations and parliamentarians, for each actor to get a chance to discover how they carry out their duties, their working conditions and the pressure they are under.
98. Data collection is essential for the preparation of an appropriate institutional response to racism in the police and for monitoring the situation. In order to have a precise idea of the scale of racism within the police, I intend to urge States to collect data and carry out research on racist incidents in the police.
99. Tackling racism in the police is at the same time a challenge and a way to increase the level of trust in the institution. Main difficulties in tackling racism are inaction following a racist incident in the police, lack of self-criticism, dealing with policies or instructions that could be potentially racist, lack of inquiry mechanisms, lack of follow-up or independence of the inquiry mechanism and objective communication on the issue.
100. I cannot conclude this report without relaying an overall concern with regard to the protection of human rights, which I consider to be at risk today in Europe with an increasing support for openly racist political parties in several member States and an increased tolerance for racism. We cannot take the “human rights acquis” for granted and cannot ignore that the lasting financial and economic crisis might contribute to further exacerbating tensions. I call on the vigilance and responsibility of all members of this Assembly not only to condemn racist remarks and behaviour but also to launch public debates on this issue. I am convinced that a condemnation of racism and racial discrimination at every political level is essential to start changing mindsets, without which concrete change will not happen, neither in the police nor in society. It is our duty as politicians to contribute to making racism unacceptable.