Commentary: Protection under the law applies to everyone equally, it's shameful to traffic in it
When I read the news recently that representatives of a group of Roma in Ostrava had offered to turn in delinquents in exchange for better police protection against right-wing extremists, I thought it was a bad joke. It wasn't.
I know many Romani people in Ostrava, including Josef Stojka, and I believe that what he really meant is different from how he recently expressed himself on this issue. However, that does not make his statement any less absurd.
I consider just one fact about his statement to be positive: Local Romani people in Ostrava are aware that the problem is often on our side. Super, that's an important step forward, but the rest of it, of course, is truly nonsense.
Here is what Josef Stojka said to news server iDNES.cz:
"The radicals' events are prompting unrest. Romani people feel threatened," he said. In his view, no Romani counter-events are being planned, but police must guarantee better security. "This concerns, for example, the Přívoz municipal department, where the radicals just went, or other places, like Zábřeh, where another demonstration is supposed to take place at the end of September," he said, adding that Romani people are willing to cooperate on reducing high crime levels, for example, in Přívoz. "Drugs are distributed on the street there and the dealers are evidently our people too. First we'll warn them to stop. If they don't listen, we will turn them in to the police ourselves," he surprisingly declared.
This statement could also be understood to mean that the Romani community is above the law, which it simply is not. The law applies and should apply to everyone equally, without exception.
Every citizen is obliged to report knowledge of criminal activity to the police. If he does not do so, he becomes an accomplice, more or less.
There is an entire section of the Penal Code about this, number 368, "Failure to report a crime". To condition the "turning in" of delinquents on receiving police protection is just as much rubbish as it would be to pay off police officers for protection. The police are obligated to protect us. They are not volunteers.
The cohesion of Romani communities is unique in many respects. We are different from the gadje in this, and that's good.
However, I often ask myself whether it wouldn't be better to look before we leap. If Mr Stojka wanted to talk about how Romani people could contribute toward fighting crime in Ostrava, he selected a very poor format for that discussion.
This kind of trafficking with the law will harm us in the eyes of the public, because very few people will really reflect on how ridiculous such a vision is - mainly, that it's illegal. People believe what they read in the media, and in the iDNES.cz piece they will read that Romani residents of Ostrava won't be turning in "their" criminals unless the police ensure their community greater protection.
As stated above, that should already happen completely automatically, all of it. Both the police protection and the reporting of criminal activity.
I saw an ideal model for cooperation between ethnic minorities and the police in the USA. There, police often have a representative of a specific minority on the force who collects information in the community. This police officer plays more than one role. He is an adviser and at the same time a mediator of the relationship between the community and the police. Surprisingly, it works.
I would recommend the people in Ostrava introduce a similar model there. That would be a far better service (to themselves most of all) than these quick, unpremeditated proposals that make no sense.
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