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Controversial Police Publication Sparks Outrage Among Roma Community and Advocates

[Chicago, 02/13/24] – A recent publication titled "Gypsy Scams" released by the Burbank, Illinois Police Department has ignited a firestorm of criticism and concern from human rights organizations, including the World Roma Federation, and individuals advocating for the Roma community's rights and dignity. The document, which utilizes the pejorative term "Gypsy" to describe the Roma people, is under scrutiny for perpetuating discriminatory stereotypes and engaging in racial profiling.

The publication inaccurately characterizes the entire Roma ethnic group as engaging in deceptive practices, further exacerbating stereotypes by associating physical features such as medium to dark complexions, dark hair, and eyes with criminal behavior. This generalization not only fuels discrimination but also undermines the principles of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in human rights laws and standards.

Critics argue that the use of derogatory language and the promotion of unfounded stereotypes in official communications by law enforcement is not only disrespectful but also contradicts the core duties of police departments to serve and protect all community members impartially. The negative portrayal of the Roma in the document contributes to the stigmatization and marginalization of an already vulnerable community, reinforcing harmful prejudices and potentially leading to biased treatment by law enforcement and the public.

In response to the publication, the World Roma Federation has called for immediate action from the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. The Federation urges the commission to demand the retraction of the controversial publication, issue a formal apology to the Roma community, and implement comprehensive cultural sensitivity and anti-discrimination training for the Burbank Police Department staff. Additionally, there is a call for the department to review its policies and practices to ensure they align with the respect and protection of the rights and dignity of all ethnic groups.

Deny Dobobrov, UN Representative for the World Roma Federation, stated, "This publication not only disrespects the Roma community but also violates the fundamental human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination. We urge the Burbank Police Department to take corrective actions immediately and commit to fostering a relationship of trust and respect with all ethnic communities."

Janos Sztojka, President of the World Roma Federation, expressed deep concern over the publication, emphasizing the broader impact such narratives have on the perception and treatment of Roma communities globally. "This publication is not just an isolated incident; it reflects a systemic issue of misunderstanding and bias that Roma people face daily," Sztojka remarked. "We stand firm in our resolve to challenge and change these narratives, advocating for a society where respect, understanding, and equality prevail. It's crucial that law enforcement agencies lead by example, demonstrating a commitment to serving all communities with fairness and dignity. We call upon the Burbank Police Department to take this opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue and action that will bridge divides rather than deepen them." Sztojka's comments underscore the federation's commitment to advocating for the rights and dignity of the Roma people, urging for immediate and lasting change in how Roma individuals are perceived and treated by society and its institutions.

The Burbank Police Department's publication serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by the Roma community in combating stereotypes and discrimination. The World Roma Federation, alongside human rights advocates, remains committed to working towards a future where the rights, history, and culture of the Roma people are recognized and respected.

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