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Czech Republic: Romani police officer says work with children is the most important thing

12.9.2016 17:01
Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, 2013. (Photo:   http://kamera.ulfree.net/)
Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, 2013. (Photo: http://kamera.ulfree.net/)

News server Novinky.cz has published a report about Ladislav Horváth (age 33), one of a very few Romani people to work as a state police officer in the Czech Republic. He set out to become a member of law enforcement 11 years ago and the profession still fulfills him today.

Horváth grew up living in a Romani-inhabited housing estate in the town of Ústí nad Labem and experienced brawls with skinheads in his youth. He was recently promoted to the position of Chief Inspector and is involved in programs targeting members of the Romani minority.

The beginning of his career was very difficult. When he first began to work for the police, he encountered many colleagues who made racist remarks about his ethnic origin, as it was completely new for the police force to have a Romani member.

Horváth gradually fit in with the police corps and today almost never encounters ethnic innuendo there. He has worked on police missions abroad, in refugee camps in Hungary and Slovenia, and currently participates in international conferences on the topics of Islam, motorcycle gangs, Roma and other law enforcement issues.

Lieutenant Colonel Václav Vlček told news server Novinky.cz that Horváth is one of only a very few Romani members of the police force. In the autumn of 2015, a project was launched by police to work with Romani people in socially excluded localities.

The project involves 40 experienced officers, Horváth included. For the time being it is running in four regions, but in future the project could expand to other regions as well.

The police specialists are supposed to work on being accepted by the Romani community so they can become intermediaries between the police and the Romani community, which means that communication skills and a perfect knowledge of the local environment are most important. Horváth believes the very most important factor is that of police work with children who have nobody to raise them when they are not in school and have no role models at home because their parents are addicted to alcohol or drugs.

"A couple of years ago the seven-to-12-year-olds were telling me they wanted to be like their neighbor the drug dealer because he had a nice car, wore gold chains and had money. Either that, or that when they grew up they would be on welfare. Currently I encounter young children from the residential hotels in the neighborhood who tell me that they want to be football players or police officers. It's a pleasant change," Horváth told Novinky.cz.

Horváth's story is very similar to that of the well-known Romani emigrant from the Czech Republic, Petr Torák, who has been working since 2006 for the British Police in Peterborough. He was recently named a Member of the British Empire in recognition of his brilliant performance in that role.    

th, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Děti, Drogy, Policie, Roma, social exclusion, Ústí nad Labem



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