Interview Police section Roze in Blauw

Holland is one of the first countries to have a special section for LGBT police men and women. It is called ‘Rozen in Blauw’ (‘Pink in Blue’). LGBT officers can meet there, and LGBT civilians can contact the special section if they so prefer.
We talked to Faycal El Ouaret, one of the members of the Roze in Blauw core team.

When was Roze in Blauw founded?
In October 1999, so nearly 20 years ago.

And how long have you been involved?
About 2.5 years.

How many police staff are member of Roze In Blauw?
About 100, 120 or so, in total. They are not all active members, most of them are member because they want to stay informed. Besides these passive members, there are active members, who will come to meetings etcetera. There is a core group of  (now) 7 members who have more tasks. I belong to the core group of the Amsterdam unit.

Roze in Blauw also exists in other units, outside Amsterdam, but Amsterdam has the biggest group. Amsterdam is where it all started, 20 years ago. The 120 members are not all LGBT+. For example, there are some parents with a gay or lesbian child, who also have become a member.

We used to have a real management (chairperson, secretary, treasurer). However, after the departure of our spokeswoman Ellie Lust, which prompted the entire management to step down, we decided to restructure the management to just a core group. (Some background here: Ellie Lust was a popular spokesperson for the Amsterdam police force (and Roze in Blauw). When she started to work for television programmes, the police organization made here choose between police work and tv work, incompatible according to the police force. She chose for television, thus ending her police career).

This way the continuity of the group is more guaranteed. Per person we have smaller tasks, so that if a person leaves, his/her tasks can easily be taken over by another member of the core group. We do have a technical chairperson and a technical vice-chairperson. I am the vice-chairperson. Other than that, we’re all equal in role – we don’t have a management or a spokesperson.

We’re not officially a union or foundation, but a network within the police organization. Similarly, there is a Moroccan, Turkish, Christian, women network, etcetera.

What do enjoy most when being active for Roze In Blauw?
By far: run a street shift during the Gay Pride. This I like better than be on the Roze in Blauw boat in the Amsterdam Canal Parade. I generally like the contact with civilians, for example to help them with filing a police report.

What do you discuss during your meetings?
We get together every 4 months. We talk about our experiences as gay force members, e.g. when the Nashville statement came out, we discussed that. What are we going to do, how do you feel about it. We also talk about upcoming events, such as Gay Pride, True Colours, May 4 & 5 (annual national commemoration of WW II, and celebration of the end of the war). We can also help other colleagues with their coming out within the force. We can also help each other, give tips about what you should or shouldn’t do.

Do you get LGBT specific help requests?
Yes, people can call to our special phone number (day & night, 7 days a week, see bottom of page) to report LGBT-related incidents. We sometimes get these incidents transferred through from our colleagues, if this seems appropriate. We do however always make sure the incident is really LGBT-related. It’s very easy to yell ‘homo’ to gay/lesbian neighbours, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the incident is LGBT-related. We take care our Roze In Blauw statistics are not polluted with non-related things.

Does it sometimes happen that colleague police officers refuse to take a complaint if it seems LGBT-related?
No, as Roze in Blauw we try to deal with these incidents ourselves, but the police have a legal obligation to file a police report. Sometimes we do advise to wait a few days. Say, for example, you want to file a report about your father, in the heat of the moment. It might be worth considering in such a case to wait a few days. Maybe, when everything has cooled down, you don’t want to file a report any more. Sometimes colleagues will refer a civilian to Roze in Blauw, because they feel  we are better equipped. We haven more knowledge and experience, so it can be more convenient for the civilian to file a report with us. Or an incident can be less embarrassing for civilians. Think sex parties, gay sauna, cruising areas, etcetera. Possibly ‘terra incognita’ for the average straight police officer.

Is it still one of the goals of Roze in Blauw to increase the willingness to report LGBT incidents with the police? Do you have numbers about that?
It is certainly our goal to increase the number of LGBT related reports filed. It is however difficult to measure – I don’t have any exact numbers.

But you can think of immigrant LGBTers, from countries where they are used to being afraid of the police. Also think of refugees from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria. It is very difficult for them to go the police with basically any kind of problem. They may for instance report a robbery, but can be reluctant to tell that the robbery happened in a cruising area.

For these target groups we have posters and brochures in Arabic, for example. We don’t have many Mediterranean clients however. They appear to know us, but are still gauging us.

We also have information in English.

How do you spread the information?
We spread information in gay bars, for instance. Or we sometimes do a bar crawl in the gay scene, to make ourselves known, with posters and brochures. We also have a website (in Dutch).
Contact details: see bottom of page.

Are you also involved in education?

We are sometimes asked to take part in workshops. Or we’re asked to come to centres for asylum seekers to give talks about the role of the police, Roze in Blauw, what you can do and can not do. You can not have sex in an open window, although we’re in a free society! For asylum seekers it is a learning process how to deal with the ‘local codes’. Being able to talk to the police is quite a new thing for many immigrants.

We also have given talks abroad. Roze in Blauw is one of the first LGBT police networks, and we see that police forces in other countries are interested in how our network works, e.g. in Poland, Czech Republic. Recently we received a police delegation from Macedonia, and colleagues went to Poland.

It is kind of surprising that an initiative like Roze in Blauw would catch on in Eastern European countries, such as Poland, where the state of law is currently under pressure.

Faycal El Ouaret of Roze in Blauw
Police officer Faycal El Ouaret of Roze in Blauw

In these countries LGBT issues are developing nonetheless. Particularly in bigger cities, there tends to be a developed gay/lesbian scene. In cities like Budapest, Warsaw, Moscow, St Petersburg, police forces tend to be interested in a concept like Roze in Blauw.

I read about a conference for Roze in Blauw groups in Toronto, Canada. Have you been there?
That would be the World LGBTQ Conference for Criminal Justice Professionals. This conference was held  for the first time in Amsterdam, in 2016. The second conference was in June 2019, in Toronto, Canada. Colleagues of mine went there, I couldn’t be there myself. The conference is for networking, participating in work groups, exchanging information, etc. 27 Countries took part in the conference. I don’t know if Holland was the first country in the world to have a Roze in Blauw network. It certainly was one of the first.

Have you ever acted as a gay cruising person in order to catch gay bashers?
No, I haven’t. This is an illegal way of collecting evidence. Maybe it used to be done, but the police doesn’t do this.

Do you ever come across extortion? And human trafficking?
Yes, that happens sometimes. For example, after a date or so. Personally, I never had to deal with human trafficking. Neither with loverboys.

What are the most common incidents Roze in Blauw gets to deal with?
Verbal abuse, extortion, theft and robbery on gay cruising places or, for example, on Grindr dates. People sometimes call with questions or requests for advice.

Do you yourself answer the Roze in Blauw phone line?
(See contact details at the bottom of this article).
No, I don’t. This is done by colleagues of mine. We recruit the phone staff ourselves, from the Roze in Blauw network.

At the moment I don’t have much time to operate our phone number. It is time consuming. You get a shift of a week, during which the phone is answered 24 hours a day. Currently, there are about 6 staff members that run the phone line.

Do (LGBT) tourists sometimes call the number?
Very occasionally. They mostly go to a police station if something happens.

What facilites are given to Roze in Blauw by the police organisation?
There is a facility arrangement in the making. The core team members of Roze in Blauw will get a number of hours, not certain yet how many exactly. Other network members will also get a few hours, but less.

In addition the organisation pays for the Roze in Blauw phone number, and meeting facilities are provided. Plus, the police paid for part of the delegation to the World LGBTQ Conference for Criminal Justice Professionals in Toronto.

Is the shift on the day of Canal Pride, the first Saturday in August, a popular one?
Yes, very much so. The way it works is that you can list yourself for that day. If here are more officers listed than necessary, the required number of staff will be chosen. It is taken into account who was lucky the year before.

Do you take part in the Canal Parade?
Yes, Roze in Blauw has its own float, ever year. Personally, I prefer to work and be on the street that day. Being on the boat is just not my thing.

English brochure Roze-in-Blauw (detail)
English brochure Roze-in-Blauw

Last question: are there any things/developments/trends/individuals that pose a threat to the LGBT community?
Yes: chrystal meth (also known as ‘Tina’, or just ‘T’). This is a drug that is very dangerous and addictive, and that is apparently getting more popular in the gay scene, on sex parties and the like.

To contact Roze in Blauw:

website (in Dutch): https://www.politie.nl/themas/roze-in-blauw.html
e-mail rozeinblauw@politie.nl (= central email address) or rozeinblauw.amsterdam@politie.nl, (= the Amsterdam e-mail address). Roze in Blauw phone number: 088-169 1234 (24 hours a day)

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