Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank the hosts of this years’ European Police Congress, which is dedicated to the
topic of migration, integration and European security in transition – for having chosen this
highly pertinent topic. I feel honoured to have the opportunity to address you.
I wish to share a quote of a Somali asylum seeker in Finland with you:
“I trust the police the most. When I arrived to the harbour, I was directed
to the police and they gave me information about [my] asylum application.
They also told me that they are here to help me. My experience with the
police is nothing but positive, since what they told me has been true.”
This quotation is taken from interviews carried out with asylum applicants across the EU, as
part of research that the EU Fundamental Rights Agency conducted last year. It illustrates
very well one of the many ways in which police forces play a vital role in the protection
of fundamental rights – in this case the right to seek asylum.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Migration, integration and security lie at the core of the Fundamental Rights Agency’s
mandate. Within this debate, human rights are sometimes understood as an obstacle for
effective policing, but I wish to paint another picture here. A picture where we can see the
opportunities that human rights hold for making policing more effective.
We all know – a crime is not just a statistic. It is not just a statement that the law has been
broken. Often behind a crime there is a victim. Often the victim has had his or her rights
violated. And day to day, the police provide a vital service that helps to protect and restore
rights for victims and vulnerable communities.
Each time a theft or burglary, or an assault is prevented, or a perpetrator is caught and
prosecuted, this is the police protecting a potential victim’s right to enjoy his/her property or
the right to physical integrity. Each time the police provide protection for a group of
protestors on a demonstration: that is the police protecting their right to freedom of expression
So effective policing enhances human rights. But human rights can also enhance the
effectiveness of policing. To solve crimes, the police rely on people to come forward as
victims and witnesses. And in preventing crimes and pre-empting criminal activity, the police
rely on good community relations to deliver early-warning signals about social unrest or
potential offenders and victims. But the police will not have this flow of information and
cooperation if communities do not trust the police.
I will highlight three problems:
• the problem of unreported racist crimes
• the impact that discriminatory practices have on trust
• the impact of unresolved racially motivated crimes on minority attitudes
Firstly, the problem of unreported racist crime. The Fundamental Rights Agency recently
published a European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey, or EU-MIDIS, where we
interviewed 23,500 members of immigrant and ethnic minority groups across all 27 EU
One of the questions we asked is whether they had been the victim of a racist assault, threat or
serious harassment and whether they had reported this. Only 17% of victims reported
incidents to police. So, up to 83% of racist crime is going unreported. Unreported means
unpunished. And the biggest cause of non-reporting? Half of the interviewees told us that it
was because they lacked confidence in the police.
So we can see very clearly that a lack of trust is a serious impediment to the ability of the
police to resolve crimes. They cannot investigate incidents that they do not know about. And
the less they know about, the more perpetrators are able to flout the law.
Secondly, I turn to the problem of discriminatory practices and their impact on levels of trust.
During the EU-MIDIS survey we also asked minorities about their experience of police stops,
the nature of these stops, and whether they considered that they were stopped because of their
ethnicity or immigrant background – in other words, whether these stops could be considered
discriminatory. The results show clearly that persons from minority groups who perceive that
they were stopped by the police on the basis of their ethnicity have a lower level of trust in
the police. Among some groups, levels of mistrust were particularly high. For example 50%
of Roma and 30% of North African interviewees said that they tended not to trust the police.
Where individuals feel that they have been stopped for discriminatory reasons, they will form
assumptions that they will be treated unfairly by the police. As I mentioned, this will
contribute to the problem of non-reporting. It is not a big jump to also conclude that it will
affect whether people are willing to come forward as witnesses or cooperate in other ways
that help in the prevention of crime.
Ladies and gentlemen, what happens if we put these two problems together? Where we have
minority communities experiencing racist hate crime, who do not trust the police to address
and resolve these crimes, we encounter a third set of serious problems.
The Agency recently surveyed young people from both the Muslim population and the
majority population in France, Spain and the UK – so three EU Member States that have been
the target of Islamist inspired violence. We found that all young people whom we surveyed in
these three countries – regardless of their religious affiliation – share the same types of
concerns and attitudes about major social and political issues. However, those who are
victims of discrimination are more likely themselves to develop attitudes or become involved
in activities supporting the use of violence. This also included tacit support for acts of
terrorism in certain circumstances.
What we can learn from this is that unresolved racist crimes can contribute to simmering
tensions that later translate into violence. And again, without an underlying level of trust with
communities, the police cannot hope to remain informed of problems at an early stage.
Conversely, where trust exists, reporting levels will rise, and more crimes will be punished -
delivering justice to victims. And that, in turn, can help to reduce feelings of resentment and
suspicion among victims, reducing social tensions.
Ladies and gentlemen, faced with these problems, how can human rights principles help the
police to preserve and build on levels of trust? I will elaborate on three elements:
• Firstly, respect and the preservation of dignity should form the basis for any
interaction between officers and the public.
• Secondly, participation and transparency should form the basis for engagement of
police forces with their local communities.
• Thirdly, rights-awareness should form a bond of guarantee between the police and the
Turning, firstly, to respect and dignity. One concrete example of how human rights principles
can be incorporated into policing can be seen from the Agency’s Guide on understanding
and preventing discriminatory ethnic profiling published last year – that you find in your
conference packs. I wish to draw your attention to the key finding of this guide, which is the
clear distinction between, on the one hand, legitimate uses of profiling by the police – for
example where there is a suspect description and police intelligence concerning a certain
group or individuals – and on the other hand the use of discriminatory ethnic profiling
practices – that is, where a decision to exercise police powers is based only or mainly on that
person’s race, ethnicity or religion. Guided by human rights principles, it is possible to use
profiling as a tool while avoiding creating perceptions of discrimination that lead to mistrust.
Secondly, the principles of participation and transparency. Here, the Agency has collected
examples of promising practice from research conducted into community relations in the
Netherlands, Ireland and Austria. Police forces undertook various initiatives to promote better
understanding and trust with minority communities. These included involving minorities in
the training of police, raising awareness among personnel of problems of discrimination
facing minorities, and increasing the presence of minorities within the police force,
particularly at senior level. Other initiatives that can create trust include regular and open
dialogue in public forums between senior officers and members of minority communities.
Thirdly, the issue of rights-awareness. One essential feature of building trust is to provide a
guarantee of accountability. Police forces need to play a role in informing minority
communities that they have a right to be treated fairly and without discrimination in their
contact with the police. Where the police openly accept that they must meet this standard of
fairness, and they make people aware of their rights, they are more likely to be seen to be
acting in good faith.
Human rights must not be seen as an external component of policing – they are integral to
effective policing. In this sense the Stockholm Programme, adopted by the European Council
in December 2009, underlines that fundamental rights protection must lie at the centre of
policies that contribute to the creation of area of freedom, security and justice. This will take
time to develop, but it is my pleasure to say that at a panel earlier on today, the Agency, in
cooperation with the Association of European Police Academies, Cepol, and the European
Police College, showcased how human rights principles can become an integral part of police
training. We are currently engaged with our European partners and national police academies
in developing tailored training models on non-discrimination, diversity and other fundamental
rights topics, in line with their needs.
We are also increasingly in close dialogue with other EU Agencies in the area of security and
justice such as FRONTEX, Europol and Eurojust.
Ladies and gentlemen,
the police play an important role in guaranteeing and restoring the human rights of victims –
victims of all crimes, including hate crimes. Human rights can in turn enhance the
effectiveness of policing because they bring tools to policing that help to preserve and
enhance trust – a trust, which has to be built with many minority groups in Europe. Like the
Somali asylum seeker I quoted at the beginning, ALL members of the public need to be able
to say “I trust the police the most”. Trust can convert the image of the police from a force that
minorities regard with suspicion, into a service that they resort to – without a second thought
– for help.
It is only through trust that victims become willing to report, witnesses become willing to
testify, and communities become willing to give early-warning signals. It is this trust that
allows police forces to resolve, prevent and pre-empt criminal activity.
I would like to thank you for your attention and underline that the EU Fundamental Rights
Agency remains at your disposal, within its mandate, to provide any support you may