Nicolas Maeterlinck

Three-quarters of local police forces understaffed

There is a big shortage of police officers in Belgium. Monday’s edition of the daily ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ reports that the Federal Police Service is unstaffed to the tune of 1,620 officers, while three-quarters of the country’s local police services are under-staffed. The local police services need a total of 2,097 extra offices in order for them to be no longer understaffed.  

The police unions say that the under-staffing can be felt on the ground.  The issue of under-staffing at the Federal and Local Police Services is not new.  According to the most recent figures, our country’s police services need a total of an extra 3,717 new officers for them to be up to full strength.  

Patrick Roijens of the liberal police union VSOA told journalists that "The number leaving the service is much greater than the number joining up. A lot of police officers will be retiring during the coming years”.  

"The workload is becoming ever greater and everything has to be done be fewer people. Officers have to work longer and are doing more overtime and weekend work”.

Fewer offices has an impact on the ground

"We should try and keep up with basic policing tasks which means offering frontline assistance to the population. Time devoted to other duties is reduced in order to allow us to be able to carry out such basic policing tasks”.  

The police union is in favour of an accelerated recruitment procedure.

"A plan spanning several years is required to bridge the shortfall in capacity within a reasonable timespan. Secondly, the recruitment process drags on for far too long. People that are candidates to work as police officers should be able to start their year’s training more quickly”.  

"Antwerp has started recruiting and selecting candidates itself. This is quicker, but it also costs money. The Interior Ministery suggests that other cities and municipalities follow suit. However, not all police services, especially the small ones, have the money to do so”.    

"There is a permanent acute shortage of officers in Brussels. Many officers start their careers in Brussels, before moving to a job closer to home after a couple of years”, Mr Roijens added.