Dutch police accused of brutalising international lawyer in racially motivated attack

Police deny allegations of racist and violent conduct after American lawyer says she was 'brutalised, arrested and thrown into jail' as she travelled to work in The Hague

May Bulman@maybulman
Thursday 26 January 2017 18:17
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Chaka Laguerre, an American lawyer working at the International Court of Justice in Dutch city The Hague, said she was “brutalised, arrested and thrown into jail” after two officers stopped her over dangerous traffic behaviour
Chaka Laguerre, an American lawyer working at the International Court of Justice in Dutch city The Hague, said she was “brutalised, arrested and thrown into jail” after two officers stopped her over dangerous traffic behaviour

An international lawyer has alleged she was “brutalised” by two Dutch police officers in a racially motivated attack that reportedly left her in hospital.

Chaka Laguerre, an American lawyer working at the International Court of Justice in Dutch city The Hague, claimed she was “brutalised, arrested and thrown into jail” after two officers stopped her on Tuesday morning for walking her bike across the road on a red light as she travelled to work.

The police department in The Hague has confirmed Ms Laguerre was arrested, but denied allegations of racist and violent police conduct, saying it was necessary to take her to the police station because she “kept resisting” after they stopped her for dangerous traffic behaviour.

The police have said they are going to submit a complaint against Ms Laguerre to the International Court of Justice over her allegations against the department.

In a post on Facebook, the 30-year-old Ms Laguerre said she "ended up in the hospital swollen, bruised, and injured" after the officers stopped her and asked to see her ID. When she couldn’t provide them with a passport – instead showing them her International Court of Justice badge – she said she was “banged against the car", “beaten on the legs” and “dragged into the car”, as passers-by looked on.

"They both slammed me against the police car and began aggressively pulling on and bending my arms in multiple directions behind my back, banging me against the car, beating on my legs, pushing into my back, stepping on me, handcuffing me, and trying to drag me into the car,” Ms Laguerre said.

“I was crying and pleading with them not to arrest me. I kept explaining that I am an expat working at the Court, that I did not know that walking across the street was a crime, that I did not do anything wrong, and begged them to speak to the Court security. Both officers kept attacking me anyway.

“I screamed out for help. Dutch people stood around on the streets, watching and recording the incident on their phones, but no one tried to help me.

“The police continued to drag me, tightened the handcuffs on my wrist so tightly that I was no longer able to move and my wrists began to swell, and they dragged and shoved me into the police car.”

Ms Laguerre said she was then "pinned down" and told to "shut the f*** up" while being driven to the police station with the sirens turned on. Once there, she was put in a holding cell without any explanation and refused a phone call for over an hour, she alleged, and was later accused by the chief of police of "kicking and spitting" on the officers – allegations she described as "a host of lies".

In a statement issued in response to Ms Laguerre's allegations, police in The Hague said the reports of racist and violent police conduct were “unjustified”, stating Ms Laguerre had initially walked away from the officers when they tried to stop her, and that she “kept resisting” and “trying to escape the grip of the police”.

The statement reads: "The officers drove up to the woman and got out of the car in order to speak to her about her behaviour. The images show they spent some time talking to the woman.

"The officers reiterated their concerns about the woman’s dangerous traffic behaviour and asked for her identification. She wasn’t able to produce this and subsequently wanted to walk away.

"The camera images clearly show her intention to walk away and that the officers initially grabbed hold of her bicycle basket and subsequently held onto her hand.

"From that moment onwards the woman started to seriously resist. The images show the woman repeatedly tries to escape from the officers’ grip by tearing away. The officers, who remain visibly calm and collected throughout the incident, eventually manage to put one handcuff on the woman.

"As she continued with her resistance for a significant amount of time, the officers eventually decide to put the woman in the car with just one handcuff. The intense resistance also continues once she is in the car and the officers are therefore given permission to take the woman to the station with flashing lights and sirens."

According to police, Ms Laguerre was held in a cell at the police station for an hour and 20 minutes after which she was brought before an acting public prosecutor, and eventually charged with not showing her identity documents when requested to do so.

The statement concludes that the police chief will submit a complaint to the president of the International Court of Justice against Ms Laguerre over her allegations of racist police brutality.

Ms Laguerre said she lives in fear based on her race following the incident, adding that she had been particularly shocked by the fact that it had occurred in "broad daylight".

"I no longer feel safe in my own existence. I walk around with a perpetual sense of fear for my life and insecurity over my body," she wrote on Facebook.

"I exist being scared of being black, which is not existing at all. I have tortured myself, searching for answers, trying to understand why this happened to me – to no avail. What frightened me most was that everyone stood around and watched."

In addition to denying Ms Laguerre's allegations, the police said they had CCTV footage of the entire incident. A spokesperson said they were unable to allow The Independent to view the footage due to privacy laws.

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