Czech town to discontinue Roma police assistants, they protest
The Litvínov town hall is not satisfied with three members of the Roma community who have been working as civil employees of the municipal police as part of the Úsvit ("Daybreak") program to assist in addressing tensions in socially excluded localities. Mayor Daniel Volák told journalists the town will no longer be requesting subsidies from the government for their work. The dissatisfaction of the town leadership came to a head on Friday when these employees allegedly clashed with a man at the Janov housing estate. The town hall says the police assistants behaved illegally, but they claim they were just doing their job.
According to Vice Mayor Martin Klika, the Roma civilian police employees clashed with a man who was wearing the insignia of the banned Workers' Party. The town hall wants to punish them for the incident. "We cannot tolerate municipal police employees behaving illegally. We will take immediate measures with respect to those personnel," he claims.
The police assistants say they did not break the law when they stopped the man on the street for wearing a cap with the insignia of the banned party. He now alleges he was attacked. The assistants say they called police to the scene and asked the man to wait until the officers arrived. The man refused to communicate with them except to say, according to the assistants, that he wasn't going to let "Gypsies" bother him on his way home from work. The assistants say they warned him that promotion of the Workers' Party violates the law and repeatedly asked him to wait for the police to arrive. One assistant says he showed the man his service card and that the others were wearing properly marked vests. The man refused to communicate with them and started to leave. As he was leaving, one of the police assistants removed the cap from his head. The assistants claim there was no conflict or actual fighting.
"We fulfilled our work obligations within the limits of the law. We did exactly what our contract requires. We were preventing the risk of future conflict. Someone might really have attacked him because of that cap. It would have been a mistake to let that happen and if something like that had occurred, it would have been our fault. The entire incident was recorded on video," police assistant Miroslav Kováč says.
This is not the first time promoters of the Workers' Party and its successor, the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) have encountered problems over their use of the banned party's symbols. At the start of October, police charged two DSSS promoters with promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms for wearing symbols of the banned party to a public meeting in the town of Most. On 28 October of this year, at a demonstration in Prague, police also asked DSSS supporters holding flags with symbols of the banned party to identify themselves. The police assistants in Litvínov seem to have proceeded similarly.
News server iDNES.cz has previously reported that lawyers and police detectives say the use of the flags and symbols of the banned party is criminal and that those who continue to use them can be prosecuted for supporting and promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. According to lawyer Klára Kalibová of the association In Iustitia, wearing the badge of the banned party could be either a misdemeanor or a felony. "It depends what sort of danger to society the act involves, for example, how many other people are present at the time," Kalibová told news server Romea.cz. She bases her opinion on the Supreme Administrative Court decision that dissolved the Workers' Party for espousing Hitler's National Socialism and hatred of minorities.
The job description of the police assistants in Litvínov was primarily to patrol in the vicinity of pedestrian crosswalks and schools and to help in the crisis center. According to Mayor Volák, the town hall agreed to the condition that Roma people be hired for the job even though they were not convinced from the start that it was a good idea to employ solely Roma. He says the large housing estate of Janov, which is the most problematic place in town, is not solely inhabited by Roma, unlike other socially excluded localities where similar programs operate.
According to Vice-Mayor Klika, given its experience the town hall will be requesting subsidies next year only for preventative programs for children, not for police assistants. He said the town hall would much prefer the state contribute to salaries for hiring Roma who are actually trained members of the police rather than employing people "from the street". There are currently four patrol officers from the Roma community in Litvínov. Klika said these officers met all the requirements for joining the municipal police, are trained, and that the town is satisfied with their work.
The town hall has not yet made a final decision about firing the assistants but has transferred them to a different location for now. "We are waiting to see what the police investigating the case decide. If the police decide to charge them, they will be fired," town hall spokesperson Eva Maříková says.
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