On June 9th Mateusz Rutkowski died. That evening, he was found on the streets in a confused state where he jumped a car. The Rotterdam police force violently arrested and tasered him twice to gain control. Bystanders reported how Mateusz screamed and sounded like a wounded animal: ‘The screaming turned into crying, and suddenly, all went quiet.’ Mateusz was 32 years old. He was also our neighbor.
We have known Mateusz and his parents for years. We both walk our dogs on the Heemraadssingel in Rotterdam West. Mateus was a host and instructor at the sports studio next to our office. He was a big, gentle giant, a kind soul, though he was troubled by severe mental issues for which the GGZ treated him. The cruel death of Mateusz and the grief of the family struck us intensly.
Preliminary investigations by the OM revealed that police action played a role in Mateusz’s death. Ten police officers are removed from active duty.
This Saturday, October 7th, from 7 to 9 p.m., there will be a memorial for Mateusz in front of the City Hall Rotterdam. His parents, friends and family write: ‘We will grieve because we miss Mateusz and want to celebrate his life. We will speak up because we fight together and show solidarity with all victims and relatives of police violence. We will not give up until there is justice for Mateusz and all other victims. Please bring white flowers!’
Inappropriate violence, racism, and sexism in the police force are frequent subjects in documentaries. Memorable and shocking films have revealed this recurring tendency among the Dutch and Rotterdam police. People with a migration background and people who show misunderstood behavior are disproportionately represented in the statistics for ‘deaths under the supervision of law enforcement officers.’ We refer to an article in NRC published on October 5th by two members of Control Alt Delete, the organization that fights against ethnic profiling and disproportionate police brutality. They write that 70% of the deadly victims, 96 between 2016 and 2022, suffer from mental health problems. In 20 cases, Control Alt Delete is concerned about the legality of the police action: ‘Think about the instances of Mateusz, Terence, Remon, Robert, Tomy, Raymon, Harvey, Salim, Carla, Paul, Yazan, Wessel, Bertus, Raymon, Umaru, Cyprian, Egbert en Bekim. These people all needed psychiatric help; they encountered police action that led to their death.’ Between 2016 and 2022, the OM prosecuted only three police officers after fatal incidents. Police officers, consequently, seldom have to account for their actions in court. Therefore, investigating and bringing law officers to court is of utmost importance.
Counselor Richard Korver represents Mateusz and his family. Support with raising the legal costs is necessary. If you can spare any amount of money, it will help and be greatly appreciated.