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Albín Balát: The curious New Year's maneuvers of the Czech Police

10.1.2017 9:48
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Recently photographs and video footage have been appearing on online social networking sites showing various interventions by the Czech Police. These amateur photos and recordings have been viewed several thousand times.

It is correct that the public documents these moments, because they demonstrate how the members of the Police of the Czech Republic sometimes treat the citizenry. My 20-year-old friend Martin has just had his own experience with this.

On New Year's Eve, Martin was celebrating with his friends in the town of Štramberk. When they began to go their separate ways, a police patrol appeared in response to a report of physical assault.

Martin was calmly walking down the street when a police officer ran up behind him. "The officer ran up from behind and suddenly pushed me to the ground, where he held my head down - I began shouting that I hadn't done anything and that he was hurting me. He twisted my arms to put the handcuffs on," Martin described.

It seemed to be normal police procedure for apprehending somebody. Neither Martin nor his friends had any idea what was going on, though.

The guys had no inkling that they might have doing anything wrong. As Martin was being put into the police vehicle, he told the officers that he did not understand what was happening.

One of the officers then reportedly told him that he had to show respect for the police uniform. When they arrived at the station in Kopřivnice, Martin asked whether they could remove the handcuffs because they were causing him pain - he said he posed no threat and he didn't understand what was going on.

The police officer told him the cuffs would stay on. Ultimately, however, they were removed.

Martin took a photograph of the bruising for evidence. The officers offered him medical treatment and he agreed to it.

They then drove him to the emergency room in Nový Jičín. On the way, one officer reportedly made personal insinuations about Martin, for example, about the factory he works in, and laughed at him.

Is a member of the state police even allowed to do such a thing? They then measured Martin's alcohol level and told him it was 1.6, which is nothing unusual for New Year's Eve, because almost everybody drinks alcohol on that occasion.

Moreover, Martin says he was not aggressive and behaved decently. When the hospital work was done he asked the officers if they would drive him back to Štramberk.

Allegedly they said no and ultimately took him to the drunk tank in Frýdek-Místek. Martin says he had to hold still during the ride because whenever he moved a police officer would shove him.

What happened next was treatment that Martin had never experienced in his life. They stripped him to his underwear and covered him with a sheet for the night.

"I have never felt that way before in my entire life. They confiscated all my stuff - they had already taken my telephone in Kopřivnice, I couldn't keep anything. That police officer had assaulted me, and I told them all that, but was anybody interested? Nobody. I believe people need to stop being intimidated by the police, this officer abused the fact that I was afraid of him just to ruin my New Year's. I woke up in the morning in Frýdek-Místek with a ticket for CZK 2 300 (EUR 85). Naturally my mobile phone battery had died by the time they returned it to me and I didn't know what to do," Martin summarized the experience.

I sent an e-mail to the Regional Police Directorate to find out what basically happened. I receieved the following statement: "In response to your query I am writing to say that the valid legislation prohibits the provision of information about a specific subject. Given the content of your message we will have the circumstances of the case further clarified. Generally it can be said that during the early morning hours of 1 January 2017 we were investigating suspected illegal behavior in the municipality of Štramberk, more specifically, a physical attack among an unspecified number of persons. After some individuals failed to obey police orders, the officers detained a specific person who was taken to the hospital for treatment. Given the alcohol level of 1.79 from the breath test and the illegal behavior of the person detained, it was decided to place him in an anti-alcohol holding station. The matter is still being investigated. We cannot say more because the investigation is ongoing. Signed, Warrant Officer Mgr. Petr Směták, High Inspector."

Martin, however, has witnesses who were with him at the time. "When the police officers drove up, we were already leaving. Martin was walking fast and they immediately took him away even though he had done nothing wrong and was completely calm, I don't understand it," Martin's friend Denisa says.

It's not clear whether this police officer just wanted to show who was boss or whether the police mistook one small group of young guys for another. Just imagine you're celebrating the New Year, on any square in the republic, it's full of people - and some police officer who needs to demonstrate how important he is takes a disike to you.

That officer could just knock you to the ground and treat you like a rag if he felt like it. Is that a "misunderstanding", or a police officer taking revenge?

Albín Balát, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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