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Policing in the Netherlands – the ‘same but different’

Just back from a one-week working visit to the Dutch National Police is the RGP’s Detective Constable Ilias Rahmouni.

“I was one of ten officers, male and female, from around Europe who spent a week observing how the police operate in Rotterdam and The Hague. Obviously, their work is on a vastly different scale to the RGP but, essentially, we all agreed that policing in our various countries was ‘the same – but different’.”

On their first day, the visiting officers were all extremely impressed by the Police Academy at The Hague which carries out both Basic Training and Specialist Training.

“Their facilities are amazing,” said Ilias. “For instance, we saw an indoor ‘street’ with shops, banks, offices and real vehicles where they can train officers in a variety of scenarios. The Academy also has excellent weapon training facilities as well as gymnasia and restaurants. It is all very impressive.”

Whilst in The Hague, the visitors were also given a tour of the Netherlands Forensic Institute, which is one of the world’s leading forensic laboratories.

Another highlight was a visit to the Dienst Speciale Interventies (DSI) which translates as the Special Intervention Service. The DSI is tasked with neutralising terrorist incidents and other violent public order disruptions for which regular police units are inadequately equipped. It is fully integrated with military counter-terrorism units so it has immediate access to assets such as navy patrol boats and helicopters. It also reports direct to Government Ministers rather than to any police headquarters.

“A couple of days after we visited the DSI, they were deployed in Rotterdam after a gunman shot and killed a 39-year-old woman and seriously injured her 14-year-old daughter who later died in hospital.”

“The man then set fire to the woman’s house before going to the Erasmus University Medical Centre, where he fatally shot a 46-year-old teacher.”

“This brought home to us the sort of tasks to which DSI officers may be deployed.”

“However, my lasting memory of the Dutch police will be their incredible use of the latest technology.”

“Every single officer is equipped with a phone on which he can download huge amounts of information about people, about vehicles and about locations.”

“Officers can scan documents and vehicle details and write up their paperless reports and interviews directly from the scene of an incident.”

“They are able to phone a translator whilst the detainee is in custody and put the translator on loudspeaker throughout the process. The detainee does not have to wait or spend extra time in custody for the translator to attend the Police station.”

Ilias went on to explain that “one evening, we went out with a Roads Policing Unit who had designated ‘a safe area’ from which they would operate. Then police officers on motorbikes would look for any suspicious drivers or vehicles in the surrounding area before switching on their ‘FOLLOW ME’ signs.”

Any identified vehicle is required to drive to the safe area where a variety of officials would be ready for them.

“In the safe area, they work jointly with other agencies such as taxi regulators, whose technology allows them to check how many hours a taxi driver has been behind the wheel (and I saw them report one driver for working too many hours without a break) and they had inspectors checking for any vehicle faults. They also had a ‘sniffer test’ which told them whether a driver had either been drinking or taking drugs and their IT system could immediately check whether a vehicle was stolen or whether it had ever been used in a crime.”

“Their use of technology was all very slick and very impressive.”

“In Amsterdam Schiphol, we were also shown four police helicopters (two others were being used on an exercise), their boats, jet skis, drones, and their E-bikes.”

“Officers do not patrol on foot – just on bikes or in cars,” added Ilias.

But what about the Dutch officers themselves?

“Perhaps we only met selected officers but every one of them seemed to have high morale. Their management system seems to work well and, in addition to their high-tech phones, they all carry a pistol, a Taser gun and an incapacitant spray and they found it strange that we could possibly patrol without a weapon or even a Taser.”

“Overall, the visit was a tremendous experience and I am grateful to the International Police Association for arranging it. I will definitely keep in touch with the other members of my group and with a couple of Dutch officers.”

“Although we work in different countries across Europe, we all agreed that, for all of us, the job was ‘the same – but different’.”

This feature was prepared by the Royal Gibraltar Police as part of a campaign to highlight the work of its officers.

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