In honor of International Roma Day 2014, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor is honored to share the story of György Makula, a police major and Deputy Head of the Communication Service of the Hungarian National Police Headquarters. Makula is also the chair and cofounder of the Fraternal Association of European Roma Law Enforcement Officers (FAERLEO).
Roma represent the largest of thirteen Hungarian minority populations identified by Hungary’s Minority Law. György Makula was born into a poor Roma family in Central Hungary and went on to a career with the Hungarian police. In his police career, György has continuously tried to initiate projects assisting Roma law enforcement integration. György also participated in several initiatives of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, which he says, “is very active in projects aimed at Roma issues.” In 2005, György traveled to the United States through the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) to learn more about human rights best practices.
During this three-week exchange, György had an opportunity to meet and consult with the executive director of the National Black Police Association (NBPA). He says, “I realized that problems with African-American law enforcement integration in the 1960s and ‘70s in the U.S. were similar to the situation of Roma people in Hungary, and was interested in learning the reasons why black participation in public administration increased during this time.” Following his exchange, György returned to Hungary motivated to establish an organization modeled after the NBPA for Roma police officers.
On November 24, 2006, György’s dream became a reality when the Fraternal Association of European Roma Law Enforcement Officers (FAERLEO) was established with the involvement of Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia. György explains, “FAERLEO aims to promote equal opportunities in the law enforcement agencies of Hungary and other EU member states, reduce mutual prejudices between law enforcement agencies and Roma communities, increase the number of Roma staff at law enforcement agencies, and improve the lives and service conditions of current Roma staff members. To achieve these goals, FAERLEO has international, national and regional initiatives.” For example, FAERLEO is implementing a project titled the “Roma Law Enforcement Community Tour,” which is supported by the U.S. Embassy, as well as the British and Norwegian Embassies and the Hungarian police.
György Makula’s passionate work toward the social integration of European Roma is focused on youth. In his own words, “For complete integration of the Roma community, Roma should be represented in all levels of society. We need to show Roma youth and children the paths they can choose if they study, including professional police work.”