Antwerp police in plastic bullet incident

The Quick Response Team of the Antwerp local police shot a 14-year-old girl last week with a special rifle that makes use of minute plastic bullets. The incident is making waves in Belgium, although the girl only had a bruise.

The girl was staying in a youth centre in Antwerp and was reported to be quite disturbed, threatening to injure herself and her by-standers with a piece of broken glass.

As counsellors, coaches and police failed to find a way to calm her down, the Quick Response Team was called to the scene. This team has only been created recently to intervene in "serious incidents". The girl was hit in the belly by a small plastic bullet, comparable to those used in paintball games. This allowed police to take control of the situation. 

"Our people don't enjoy things like this, but a drastic approach was needed to prevent worse. The choice was not an obvious one, but was also a well-considered and correct one", Sven Lommaert of the Antwerp police said. 

"This is unprecedented"

The agency defending youngsters' interests (Agentschap Jongerenwelzijn) was surprised to hear about the incident. "As far as we know, this is unprecedented. This procedure raises questions. We want to meet the Antwerp police to discuss the incident, but also to see how this can be avoided in future."

The Flemish socialist John Crombez of the opposition SP.A labels the incident as "unacceptable". "They say in their defence that it is only about a less lethal weapon. But don't forget we are talking about kids here."

Wouter Van Besien of the greens wants the Antwerp Burgomaster Bart De Wever to intervene. "The Quick response Team (SRT) missed its start completely. De Wever should make it clear that the SRT - created to tackle terrorism in the city - should not consider everyone as a terrorist." He adds that he is concerned because police don't think they did anything wrong.