One in four women in the Belgian federal police force have been the victim of inappropriate behavior by colleagues at least once in the last six months, according to a recent survey on well-being at work reported on by Flemish news outlet Het Laatste Nieuws.
“This figure is significantly higher than we expected,” said Sarah Frederick, a spokeswoman for the federal police. “Moreover, it is significantly higher than the number of harassment complaints that have been made to our prevention services. We are shocked and we are taking the situation very seriously.”
“Unfortunately, this issue is still a big taboo,” she continued. “We too often hesitate to denounce abusive behaviour.” The survey, involving 4,846 police officers, also revealed that half of all officers want to quit their jobs with the police. “The authorities bear overwhelming responsibility”
“This figure is a real shock for us,” said the Vice President of the liberal union SLFP Police, Vincent Houssin. “We did not expect the results would be so bad,” he continued. “The authorities bear an overwhelming responsibility in this regard.”
According to Mr Houssin, the current situation is not only “extremely serious” within the federal police force, but also at the local level where several police districts are also doing poorly on ensuring that an adequate amount welfare is provided at work.
Mr Houssin added that an agreement has been reached between the SLFP and the Belgian government to meet in a working group in order to find an appropriate means of moving forward. However, he also criticised the Belgian authorities for displaying what he regarded as insufficient initiative in dealing with the issue.
“Our leaders carry an overwhelming responsibility for this problem,” said Mr Houssin. “We must act quickly. It is urgent to make the profession more attractive, both locally and federally. Otherwise, the police will face a real disaster.”
He went on to add that he hopes that “our political leaders have understood the message”.