Czech Police director of the Karlovy Vary Region: Internal Affairs Department investigating video of intervention by police in Sokolov
Police in the Sokolov area are investigating Friday's incident during which an aggressive group of out-of-town youth clashed with local Romani residents; according to information obtained by news server Romea.cz, there were football hooligans (for example, extreme followers of Slavia Prague) involved in the assaults on Romani people. In addition to the incident itself, the Internal Affairs Department is also investigating the behavior of officers who are alleged to have behaved inappropriately towards local Roma.
Eyewitnesses say that one officer placed the barrel of his service pistol against a Romani woman's head, while other officers are said to have taunted the Romani people by calling them welfare recipients. Karlovy Vary Regional Police Chief Petr Macháček informed news server Romea.cz of the Internal Affairs Department investigation.
Macháček said that if it should be proven that the officers' inappropriate behavior contravened legal norms, they will be punished. In an interview for Romea.cz, he answered other questions about the case.
Q: Who attacked the Romani people? Were they football hooligans from Prague? Which teams do they follow?
A: On Friday afternoon near the train station in Sokolov, after a brief verbal altercation between a group of locals and a group of boaters, a brawl ensued. Most of the small group of boaters are permanent residents of Prague. Yes, we are also investigating whether some of them could be fans of the highest-ranking teams on the Czech football scene.
Q: Why were they released?
A: Nobody was detained during the course of investigating the incident given the nature of the case [people acting as a group] - it is rather a complicated matter to immediately identify a specific perpetrator of a specific illegal act. Currently we are intensively doing our best to interrogate as many eyewitnesses as possible and to assess all of the video footage known to us so as to identify the specific perpetrators of specific illegal actions.
Q: Why is this incident just being investigated as one of rioting when, for example, the eyewitnesses say the attackers shouted racist abuse? At the scene they were supposedly heard to say something about "Black swine, we'll murder you off or you'll end up in the gas chambers". There are also serious injuries that resulted.
A: In the beginning it was discovered that a clash happened between boaters and locals and that the general interest in calm, orderly coexistence among the citizenry had been violated, which is primarily why the action was legally categorized as rioting. During the follow-up investigation, especially the assessment of all available recordings, as well as by questioning eyewitnesses, naturally that classification can be adapted or adjusted. In such cases, it is absolutely normal for such a legal classification to be given and for the subsequent procedure to lead to its adaptation or adjustment. The [physical] injuries recorded at the scene were of a light, superficial nature. Among the group of locals, the number injured is roughly 10 individuals. Three boaters were injured. Nobody involved with the brawl was hospitalized. The most serious injury was a broken arm sustained by a 52-year-old woman from Sokolov. From the investigation so far there have not been any injured minors or young adults discovered.
Q: Many Romani people are criticizing the approach taken by police, who separated the so-called boaters from the Roma and took no interest in the Roma even though they were the ones who had been assaulted. Why didn't the police address what had happened to the Roma at the scene?
A: The first police patrol made it to the scene less than four minutes after the brawl was reported to phone number 158. At that moment, the priority was to separate the two small groups so further attacks could not happen. Emergency medical services were also called to the scene and the responders immediately treated two locals who had been involved in the brawl with the boaters. Next, the officers undertook the relevant steps with the individuals involved in the incident not at the scene, but at the police station.
Q: Did the police provide those injured with psychological aid?
A: Police do not automatically provide psychological aid in such cases, but of course if somebody would have asked for it, we were naturally prepared to provide it immediately.
Q: Will police leadership be addressing the actions of some of the officers who are said to have not behaved correctly toward the Romani people at the scene of the incident? One officer is alleged to have held his pistol to the head of a Romani woman - why? Several videos of the event show some officers laughing at the Roma, and one specific officer taunts the Roma with being welfare recipients. Why did they do that?
A: Currently we have a lot of video footage available that was filmed during the incident and published through social media. We are also continuing to assess the recordings made by the city of Sokolov's CCTV system. Among other matters, each video is also the subject of an investigation by the Internal Affairs Department of the Karlovy Vary Regional Police Department for the purpose of ascertaining whether an incorrect procedure was undertaken by the officers on duty in contravention of the legal norms, as well as any of the relevant actions directed by any of the intervening officers. Currently we cannot foresee the outcome of the investigation underway. Given that this incident involved a larger number of people, directly and indirectly, and police did not manage to identify all of them at the scene, we are asking any eyewitnesses to the brawl who were driving or walking past the scene of the crime who may have recorded the incident on their mobile phones or with the dashboard camera in their vehicle to call the toll-free number 158. Other information about the incident that could aid with the investigation can also be communicated to officers at any district department. We are intensively reviewing this entire matter and doing our best to determine who the specific perpetrators were for each act that was illegal.
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