Identifying and tackling problematic or abusive forms of police selectivity

Unia funded a research on police selectivity, conducted in collaboration with the National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology (NICC) and the Brussels North police zone. Main conclusion? The management of a police zone has a strong impact on police practices. It is therefore at this level that we must work to improve the relationship between the police and the population.

Discriminatory profiling by law enforcement has long reflected the tendency to check and monitor groups who are potentially more criminogenic than others. Identity verification  are supposed to guarantee public order. This approach raises certain questions. Although selective practices are part of the daily work of the police in the field, some of them can be problematic both in terms of their motivation and their impact on police work in a broader sense. We must question the message that the police force is sending to the population in general and to certain groups more specifically. A point of tension between police and citizens is whether the choice to carry out an identity check is the result of the individual discretion of the police officer, or whether it is a part of a mechanism that potentially results in discriminatory practices.  

Co-constructed project

This is the purpose of the action research funded by Unia and conducted within the Brussels North police zone (PolBruNo), in collaboration with the police force and the National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology (NICC).

The objective is twofold.

  • It aims at initiating an examination of the individual or collective practices of the police based on  signs of problematic selectivity.
  • It examines the functioning of the organisation of the police zone.

Recommendation of Unia

The project provides material for further research and enables to draw conclusions and make recommendations that can benefit other police zones. In this sense, Unia's position paper is intended for experts from the police and civil-society organisations involved in improving the relationship between police forces and citizens. It aims at:

  • contextualising the issue of checks, which constituted the starting point for this joint consideration 
  • explaining the specific nature of the PolBruNo zone which facilitated the implementation of the project 
  • highlighting  particularly remarkable  results and generating added value 
  • showing the recommendations drawn from the project by Unia, as a body whose mission is to combat discrimination and promote equality 

Comparable publications

20 September 2019

Situation of travelers in Belgium following police operation ‘Strike’ on 7 May 2019

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The Council of Europe, the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues and the European Commission must investigate whether the police and judiciary did not take excessive measures against travelers. That’s what Unia says in a report on the actions of the police and the judiciary during a large-scale investigation into car scam. The report lists a range of measures that have serious consequences for entire families.