Dutch Police

Dutch Police

1. Administration.

The organization of the police was
established through the 1957 Police Act. This act
provided for the division of the police into two
separate forces: the municipal (gemeentepolitie)
and the national police (rijkspolitie).
Municipalities with a population over 25,000 have
their own municipal police. Rural areas are
patrolled by the national police.
There are 148 municipal police forces.
Duties of municipal police include patrol,
criminal investigation, traffic, and special units
(e.g. juvenile, immigration matters, special laws,
vice), and administrative matters. The degree of
specialization is determined by the size of the
force. (Van der Vijver, et al., 1992: 79).
The Municipal police fall under the
supervision of the Minister of Internal Affairs
through the provincial governors (ICPR, 1990; 19).
The management, control and administration
of the municipal police is the responsibility of
the mayor. The public prosecutor, however, serves
as the senior investigator and is given authority
over all criminal investigative tasks of the
police in every community. In recent years, the
prosecutor has taken a more active role in working
with the police on investigations. (Tak, 1993;
The national police are a centralized
organization under the administrative control of
the Ministry of Justice. In addition to
specialized units, the national police has the
responsibility for providing law enforcement to
rural areas. For this purpose they are divided
into 17 districts with each district being further
divided into smaller sections. Each subsection
has between 9 and 53 state police officers working
in that area. The responsibilities of these state
police officers resemble those of the municipal
police. (Van der Vijver, et al., 1992: 79).
The national police have several special
units. For instance, the Federal Water Police
(Rijkspolitie te Water), which is divided into 4
districts, is responsible for police actions on
the coastal and territorial waterways. The
Aviation Service (Dienst Luchtvaart), is
responsible for the patrolling of airports and the
investigation of air traffic accidents as well as
environmental crimes. The General Traffic Service
(Algemene Verkeersdienst or AVD) is responsible
for traffic control on the highways. It also
maintains all information concerning traffic
violations for dissemination to other police
stations. (Van der Vijver, et al., 1992: 81; ICPR,
1990: 19).
Other Federal Police Units include the
Military Police Force (Koninklijke marechaussee),
which is led by the Ministry of Defense and is
responsible for guarding the borders and other
police functions at places under the control of
the Ministry of the Defense. The National
Criminal Intelligence Service (Centrale Recherche
Informatiedienst or CRI) falls under the
administrative auspices of the Ministry of
Justice. The CRI serves as the national
clearinghouse for information on crime prevention
and control. It analyzes information, co-ordinates
investigations, and assists municipal police at
their request. The CRI employs both civilians and
detectives and serves as the Interpol National
Central Bureau. (ICPR, 1990: 19).
The CRI is divided into three departments.
The General Administration Department handles
administrative matters such as translations,
personnel, security and domestic services. The
Police Information Department has sections on
Information, Circulations, Police Records, Central
Fingerprint, and Photography. Finally, the
Criminal Investigation Department includes the
following branches: Narcotics, Special Unit,
Organized Crime, Firearms, Fraud, Counterfeits,
Art and Antiques, Stolen Motor Vehicles, and
Criminal Intelligence.
Other special investigative law enforcement
agencies exist at both the municipal and federal
levels and are restricted by the types of offenses
which they may investigate. For instance, on the
national level, the Ministry of Economic Affairs
or the Internal Revenue Ministry have special
investigative units to deal with matters which are
of unique concern to them. (Tak, 1993; 20).
The organization of the Dutch police is
currently being restructured. Over the last 5
years a new plan was devised and partially
implemented. The new Police Law outlining the
reorganization of the police and its full
implementation is anticipated by January 1, 1994.
The changes are expected to have the following
results: 1) the integration of both municipal and
national police into 25 regional police forces
with 450 to 4,500 police officers in each region;
2) one of the mayors of the region will be the
administrative head of the police force with the
remaining mayors of the region comprising a police
board which will serve as the final decision maker
on financial and organizational matters; 3) the
Minister of Internal Affairs will finance the
police and determine minimum standards for the
professional and qualitative aspects of police and
their services; and 4) there will be one national
service (“landelijke politiediensten”) responsible
for traffic control on waterways and highways,
protection of the royal family and other VIP’s,
and protection of national facilities and
telecommunications equipment. This branch will
fall under the administrative control of the
Ministry of Justice. (Kuijvenhoven, 1992: 44;
WODC, 1993: 5).).

2. Resources.

* Expenditures. In 1990, the Dutch government
spent 3.63 billion Dutch guilders on the police.
(Oudhof, 1992: Table 27: Allocation of budgetary
resources to criminal justice activities).

* Number of Police. In 1991, there were a total
of 23,694 police officers of which 6,527 were
employed by the state police and 17,167 were
employed by the municipal police. Of the State
police, 5,084 (77.4%) were employed in rural or
“land service”. These figures exclude the
technical and administrative staff as well as
officers in Amsterdam. (Statistical Yearbook 1993
of the Netherlands, 1993: 400).
In 1993, female officers comprised an average
of 11% of the municipal police departments. The
municipal police department with the highest
percentage of female officers was the Hague, in
which 18.6% of the uniformed police officers
and 22% of the civilian employees were female.
(Schreuder, 1993). As of July 1, 1991, female
officers constituted slightly over 7% of the state
police force. The percentage of female state
police officers varies from one district to the
other, reaching as high as 17% in the “Randstad”,
which is the highly populated western part of the
country, and as low as 4% in another district. The
country is striving for an increase its female
officers to 25% of the work force.(van der Vijver,
et al., 1992: 75). All police officers are Dutch
citizens. Information is not available on ethnic

3. Technology.

* Availability of police automobiles. Information
concerning the exact number of police vehicles is
not available. The Logistical Division of the
Corps of National Police Services estimates the
total number of police vehicles to be about
12,000, including marked vehicles, undercover
vehicles, and tow cars. The number of marked
police vehicles is estimated to be 5,000. There
are fewer cars in service in the northern and
eastern regions of the country than in the
“Randstad” or densely populated western part of
the country. (Hoekstra, 1993).

* Electronic equipment. In addition to radar,
computer aided dispatch, and radio communications,
there are nationwide registration and
investigative computer systems. Some examples of
these are: the Identification System
(HerKenningsdienst Systeem or HKS) which maintains
data on persons who have committed criminal
offenses, in addition to facts about crimes where
no offender has been caught. While the HKS
operates on regional levels, they are bound
together by the Central Reference Index (Centrale
Verwijzings Index or CVI) which indicates the
region in which information has been compiled on
an individual.
The Netherlands Automatic Fingerprints System
(Het Automatische VingerAufdrukken Systeem
Nederlandse Kollektie or HAVANK) is an automated
system where fingerprints from the National
Criminal Intelligence Service (Centrale Recherche
Informatiedienst) are kept on file. It is capable
of identifying partial prints found at a crime
At the municipal level, police departments
maintain computer systems which compile
information on arrestees and on trouble-prone
locations. There are systems which contain
information on foreigner registration. The
Summons Processing System (Bekeuring Afhandeling
Systeem or BAS) contains information on
individuals with outstanding summons or tickets.
Within the Amsterdam police, Mobile Data Terminals
(Mobiele Data Terminals or MDT) allow officers
using computers in their patrol or surveillance
automobiles to obtain information from computers
anywhere in the country. (Van der Vijver, et.al.,
1992: 86).
* Weapons. Throughout the Netherlands, all police
officers, barring those assigned to special
tactical units, carry the same weapons: handcuffs,
a short baton, and a 9 mm. Walter P-5 handgun.
Bullet proof vests are also available and are
carried in the trunks of many police cars.
(Castricum, 1993).

4. Training and Qualifications.

Training for all municipal and state police
takes place in the same schools. There are five
schools around the country, each providing similar
education and training. The training period for
police officers lasts 20 months and is divided
into three phases. The first phase consists of 11
months (including vacations) at the police school
where recruits study law, traffic situations,
sports (martial arts and swimming), and how to use
a weapon. There is also an emphasis on role
playing situations in which recruits may later
find themselves. The second phase lasts 5 months
and involves on-the-job training. The last 3
months are spent back at the police school. Upon
completion of the program, recruits are then
assigned to work with experienced officers.
(Ministry of Internal Affairs, 1991; Castricum,
For management positions starting at the
level of “Inspecteur”, applicants must have
graduated from the highest level high school
(V.W.O.) and must pass through a selection
process involving a 6-day examination. All
applicants attend the Dutch Police Academy at
Apeldoorn (Nederlandse Politie Academie). The 4-
year study program involves 18 months of academic
study (e.g. law) followed by 6 months on probation
as a patrol officer, 12 months of academic study
in management, 6 months of probation in an
administrative position, followed by 6 months
preparation for the examination. For outstanding
applicants (former street cops) it is possible to
attend the management school for a 3-year period.
(Schreuder, August 16, 1993).
New recruits for the position of patrol
officer must be 18 years of age. At the time of
their application, they can be 17 and a half years
old. They must currently, or within one year,
have Dutch citizenship. Graduation from a
particular level of high school is required and
applicants must have satisfactory grades in Dutch
plus a foreign language, mathematics, or biology.
Applicants must possess a valid class B driver’s
license or be able to obtain one within a 3-year
period. They must also be in good health.
Criminal convictions will disqualify an applicant.
The selection process consists of a two-day
examination which includes an intelligence and a
physical fitness test, as well as interviews with
police officers and a psychologist. There is one
“selection center” for the entire country. The
department with which the recruit desires to work
will conduct a background investigation and an
interview. The decision to accept or reject the
applicant will then be made. (Ministry of Internal
Affairs, 1991).

5. Discretion.

* Use of force. Individuals have a “guaranteed
right to physical integrity” as established by
Article 11 of the Constitution. Any infringement
of this right is rigidly controlled and must be
prescribed by law. Article 33a of the modified
Police Code dictates the conditions under which
police may employ force against an individual.
Self-defense is a further legal authorization for
the use of police force, as prescribed by Article
41 of the Criminal Code: “Appropriate force, when
possible, preceded by a warning, should be applied
only if the objective cannot be achieved by other
means”. Deadly force may only be used in
situations involving a threat to the life or
safety of the officer or the public. (Castricum,
1993). (Kruize and Wijmer, 1991: 121).

* Stop/apprehend a suspect. Police may stop and
question any suspect whom they believe to be
involved in a violation of law. Temporary
detention is limited to 6 hours before the
suspect is either released or arrested. Police
may only make an arrest for a crime which they
witness in progress. If the police do not witness
the crime they make an arrest only if the crime
carries a statutory maximum prison sentence of 4
or more years (arrestable offenses). For less
serious offenses, the suspect is taken to the
station, questioned, and released with a summons
to appear in court at a later date. (Tak, 1993:
In theory, a higher ranking police official
can order detention for 2 days. The prosecutor
has the authority to extend the arrest for another
period of 48 hours before the suspect must be
presented to an examining judge who will determine
whether further detention is warranted. In
practice, however, detention at the station can
last no longer than 3 days as determined by the
European Court of Human Rights in 1988. (Tak,
1993: 16; Lensing and Rayar, 1992: 626).

* Decision to Arrest.
The decision to arrest is made by a senior
police officer, who is an officer at the
management level of Inspecteur. Officers need an
arrest warrant only in situations in which the
suspect is in his own or another private home and
refuses to allow the officers entry onto the
premises for the purpose of an arrest or a search
of the house (Schreuder, 1993).
Information pertaining to the percentage of
warrantless arrests is not available. The
majority of arrests are made without warrants,
including those which occur after an
investigation, as opposed to arrests made for
crimes witnessed by the arresting officer.
In cases of minor infractions involving
first-time offenders, police will release the
suspect. This practice is regulated by a formal
agreement between the Police and the Public
Prosecutor’s Office. This agreement, however, is
noted in police records to prevent habitual
offenders from continuously being released as
first-time offenders. Other factors which may
influence an officer to deal informally with
suspects involved in nonserious violations are the
offender’s age or the belief that formal
processing in the criminal justice system would
not benefit the suspect or the system. These are
not regulated by departmental rules but are guided
by personal beliefs and decided after consulting
with a prosecutor (Officer of Justice).
(Schreuder, 1993).

* Search and seizure. The search and seizure of
property is dictated by Articles 94 to 125 of the
Code of Criminal Procedure. Under Article 97, the
arresting officer can search the apartment or any
public places where the offense occurred or where
evidence of the offense may exist without a
warrant when the suspect was caught in the act or
when permission for arrest of a felony offense is
outstanding. No search warrant is necessary if
the suspect gives permission for the search.
(VIII. Wetboek van Strafvordering, Nederlandse
Wetboeken – Suppl. 243, Maart 1993).
When a search warrant is required, an
apartment may be searched only if the police
officer is accompanied by any of the following
persons: a cantonal court judge, a police
commissioner, or the mayor of a municipality. A
written search warrant may be issued by the
procurer-general of a court, an Officer of Justice
(prosecuting attorney), or by special written
permission from one of his auxiliary officials
(hulpofficier) which also includes a higher-
ranking police official at the level of
inspecteur. A hulpofficier can only provide a
search warrant for another officer, but not for
his own investigation. Any articles or objects
which aid in establishing the truth or prove
unlawfully obtained profit or criminal activity
are subject to seizure. (Schreuder, 1993).

* Confessions. Confessions must be voluntary and
may not be obtained through the use of force,
threat, or promises; drugs, alcohol, hypnosis or
exhaustion. They are to be taken in the accused’s
own words (Code of Criminal Procedure, Article
29). If a confession is involuntarily obtained it
will be excluded from the trial (Lensing and
Rayar, 1992; 627; Schreuder, 1993).
During police interrogation, suspects have
the right to remain silent and cannot be forced to
answer police questions. During the 6-hour
detention period, police are allowed to question
suspects and may refuse them access to a lawyer.
After the 6-hour detention in cases where police
make an arrest for an “arrestable” (felony)
offense, a lawyer is automatically provided the

6. Accountability.

When police are involved in criminal
violations of a serious nature, such as corrupt
activities, the Federal Criminal Investigation
Division (Rijksrecherche) conducts an
investigation. They are also responsible for
investigating incidents in which the police fire
their weapons. The formal decision regarding the
outcome of the case will be made by an officer
within the Ministry of Justice.
Disciplinary infractions are investigated by
the police department in which the alleged offense
occurred. The mayor makes a final determination
on the outcome of the charges. More serious
complaints involving a misuse of police discretion
(beleidsklachten) are forwarded to the national
police (landelijke or plaatselijke) for further
investigation. The Amsterdam police have created a
special unit, the Commission for Police Complaints
in Amsterdam (Commissie voor Politieklachten
Amsterdam) to deal specifically with problems
involving the misuse of discretion. Similar
offices exist in most large city police
Additionally, a National Ombudsman exists to
examine complaints against the police. Complaints
can be filed directly in the office of the
Ombudsman. While most complaints are handled by
the police, the Ombudsman serves as a form of
independent external control. The Ombudsman
examines the complaints and can make
recommendations but has no authority to enforce
these recommendations. (Castricum, 1993; Van der
Vijver, et al., 1992: 91).

Note: this work was completed in 1993


See Also

  • Criminal Justice
  • Legal System
  • Criminology
  • Dutch Criminal Justice System

Further Reading

  • Cole, George F., S. J. Frankowski, and M. G. Gertz, (1987) Major Criminal Justice Systems. Beverly Hills: Sage.
  • David, R. and J. E. Brierley (1968) Major Legal Systems of the World Today. London: Free Press.
  • Fairchild, E. (1993), Comparative criminal justice systems. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • Feeley, Malcolm M. (1973), “Two models of the criminal justice system”. Law and Society Review, 7(3): 407-425.

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