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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT
Sébastien Van Malleghem
Brussels, Nivelles, Belgium, 2008 – 2010
For more than 3 years, I followed Belgian cops in their cars, during their missions, everywhere. I discovered the violence of life seen on the face of citizens, the loneliness and the stories of those who try to speak but can’t, who try to get out of the night, but can’t.
What reality can be seen from the back seat of a police car, when we are neither a suspect nor a policeman ourselves?
Though sometimes sordid, I saw the everyday lives of men and women who work, day and night, for the safety of their fellow citizens. I uncovered the unfamiliarity in the heart of the routine, the vibration of a job that seems, at first sight, lacking of emotion.
Since elections in June 2010, Belgium has had no government, which is obviously detrimental for public services like the police force. According to some sources, up to ten percent of the population suffers from alcoholism, and sixty five percent of young people try or take drugs. But the Belgian police are undeniably effective, despite a drastic lack of resources. The night shift of Brussels west zone is only staffed with 8 teams- 16 policemen for 182,000 residents. When a night becomes heated to the point of needing reinforcements, the only solution is to call in police officers from neighboring zones, who then leave their own perimeter uncovered.
However, even an increase in the resources available for the police force will not be able to stop urban insecurity and the saturation of the prisons. The lack of space in Belgian prisons leads to reduced time spent in jail for “light judgements,” and law enforcement frequently bears the burden of people they must deal with again and again.
Though the police are conscious of the difficulties they face, they continue to watch over sleepy Belgian towns with the hope that the State will support them.
How will you sleep when their hope fades away?
Sébastien Van Malleghem, 24, is based in Belgium. He studied in Brussels at the superior art school “le75”. During his studies he interned with Tomas Van Houtryve.
After finishing school he went to America and participated in the Eddie Adams Workshop. Last June he joined the Belgian Collective “Caravane”.
Sebastien is currently looking for an editor for a book on his reportage about the police while continuing this project exploring justice. He recently began working in Belgian prisons.
Born in Belgium, Sebastien is trying to understand his continent by photographing in Europe.