A visit by relatives to a Romani family residing at the Mojžíř housing estate in Ústí nad Labem ended with police intervening and beating up several people. The police raided the family last Sunday shortly after 10 PM on the basis of a complaint from a neighbor bothered by noise coming from their apartment.
Three family members were injured during the intervention including the 65-year-old grandmother, who ended up in the emergency room with a cracked skull. The owner of the apartment, a 28-year-old man, ended up in the emergency room as well; he had just undergone an operation at the time of the incident and is still waiting for a new heart.
Romani family: They beat us up for no reason, we were not making noise
The Romani people involved in the conflict say the police officers first asked to see their identification. A female family member asked them to wait outside while she went for the documents, but the officers stepped inside the apartment.
The owner of the apartment didn’t like the police entering his home and told them to get back in the hallway. After a brief verbal tiff and a struggle over the the door, the officers allegedly used force to re-enter the apartment and assault the owner.
„All he said to me was ‚I arrest you in the name of the law‘. Then we struggled over the door, and when he got back inside, he immediately began beating us up. There was a lot of noise and my children were crying. The police told me to shut them up in the bathroom. They twisted my arm, handcuffed me, and forced me to sit,“ the apartment owner said.
Another police officer allegedly attacked the grandmother, who fell after being struck and cracked her head on a table. Officers allegedly also beat another family member with a truncheon in a separate room of the apartment.
„The cop came back after that and hit me once more. My neighbor saw it, she was filming it all, and he shouted at her that she had no right to film what was happening and used vulgar curses. My partner shouted at them that I had just been through an operation and showed them the scar. She also told them I am waiting for new heart, but they didn’t respond to that at all,“ the apartment owner said.
The behavior of the officers could have had fatal consequences for him. „In completely general terms it is possible to say that a patient with a severely diseased heart should not be subjected to disproportionate, sudden physical stress, just as he should not be subjected to highly stressful situations that could cause his disease to get even worse,“ said Petr Ošťádal, the number two physician in the Cardiology Department at the Na Homolce Hospital.
During the incident the apartment owner’s sister-in-law called another police patrol, who calmed the situation upon arrival. The owner’s partner said the first officers‘ behavior was completely inadequate.
„When I reproached the officer for pushing our grandmother, he said ‚yeah, I pushed her, so what?‘ When they were beating up the boys and we were holding the children, they told us to stand still or we would be beaten too. I was afraid. I was shouting because the children were there. My boy begged them to leave his dad alone and they said ‚Get out of here, you bastard‘ to him,“ the woman told news server Romea.cz
Police: Our patrol was attacked
The intervention resulted in the detention of a 22-year-old man who allegedly assaulted one of the intervening officers. The police view the entire conflict completely differently.
„On 6 October at 22:20 a police patrol responded to a call to the 158 line that nighttime quiet was being disturbed at the Mojžíř housing estate on Jindřich Plachta Street. Police intervened and detained at 22-year-old man who assaulted an intervening officer. The assault is currently being handled by the Criminal Police Service and is being investigated in Ústí nad Labem,“ Veronika Hyšplerová, spokesperson for the Ústí Regional Police, described the intervention to news server Romea.cz.
The assaulted family, however, claims the officers took two men in to the police station, the apartment owner and his 22-year-old brother, who was visiting. Reportedly neither man was either charged or interrogated.
Lawyer: Officers may have exceeded their authority
The family has turned to the Counseling Center for Citizenship, Civil and Human Rights (Poradna pro občanství, občanská a lidská práva) in Ústí nad Labem for legal aid. They want the entire police intervention to be thoroughly investigated.
„They laughed at us to our faces when they told us we should file a complaint,“ the partner of the apartment owner told news server Romea.cz. Hyšplerová says the intervention is already being investigated.
The police spokesperson said the Internal Affairs Department of the Ústí Regional Police Directorate will determine whether the intervention was legal. František Valeš, a lawyer with the Counseling Center, says the officers may have exceeded their authority.
„Based on the superficial information available about the case I am of the opinion that the officers may have exceeded their authority by groundlessly and unjustifiably entering the apartment, by using completely disproportionate force when responding to a call that nighttime quiet was being disturbed, by evidently causing completely unacceptable physical harm to the occupants of the apartment, and by abusing their powers, specifically, by grossly deviating from the kind of force they are authorized to use,“ Valeš told news server Romea.cz.
When can police enter a home without the consent of the occupants? According to the Criminal Code, only in the following cases:
- House search on the basis of a warrant issued by a court on the grounds of justified suspicion that something or someone important to a criminal proceedings is located there.
- When it is essential to protect health or life, or other freedoms and rights, or to immediately avert a serious threat to public order and safety.
- If a person is in the home under the following circumstances: 1) Someone for whom an arrest warrant or order to report to prison to serve a sentence has been issued; 2) Someone who must be brought in for the purposes of participating in a criminal trial; 3) Someone who must be detained.
According to the Law on the Police of the Czech Republic, the following additional circumstances also authorize police to enter a home without consent:
- Justified suspicion that someone is dead at the scene
- In the course of pursuing a suspect
- Justified suspicion that an abused animal is at the scene
Without a warrant, the following conditions must always be fulfilled for an officer to enter a home without consent:
- Entry into the dwelling is essential and there is no other way to achieve the purpose served by entering.
- There is a serious reason to enter the dwelling with the aim of protecting health and life, other constitutionally guaranteed rights, or averting a serious threat to public order or safety (e.g., a crime is being perpetrated in the home), or a person who is a suspect or otherwise wanted for questioning is located in the home (e.g., in order to apprehend someone in the course of perpetrating a crime).
- The conditions for entering the home are based on justified suspicions (specific, trustworthy facts indicating that the conditions for entering the home have been met).
- When entering a home, an officer may only perform such actions and tasks as directly lead to achieving these purposes.