What counts as ID? When must you identify yourself? Who can ask for identification? What are your rights for filling a complaint?
By Adriana Dancu
In the past year, various countries have protested against police abuse, including in the Netherlands with the mishandling and later death of Tommy Scholten. Recently, The Northern Times was informed of a charged incident with the police in Groningen. An international was stopped, and his ID demanded of him. After police officers refused to identify themselves, the encounter became aggressive.
The person we talked to said that he was approached by police officers that refused to identify themselves, but demanded an ID document from him. The man asked the police officers why he was asked to identify himself, but he did not receive a response, which resulted in an aggressive encounter. The man relented and showed the officers his EU driving license, however, it is not considered a valid ID for identification purposes, and the police apparently kept it.
Even though everybody needs to have a valid ID document at all times, this encounter between an international and the Dutch police shows that people need to know their rights.
Who can ask for an ID, in what circumstances, and what counts as a valid ID?
A police officer, a Gemeente enforcement officer (‘toezicht’), or a conductor on public transport may ask for your ID, and people are obliged to identify themselves, however, only when there is a good reason to do so. According to the Comprehensive Identification Requirement Act, if you must show your ID, but do not, you risk getting a fine.
Usually, the police may ask to identify yourself, only if it is crucial for performing their duties. For instance, in the event of unrest or threat of violence, traffic accident, or crime, police officers are allowed to ask for an identification document, and you are obliged to comply. Gemeente enforcement officer have the same powers as the police to ask for proof of identity in similar cases.
In the case of supervisors, however, the request to show proof of identity must match their position. For instance, a supervisor of building and housing supervision cannot demand a person, who crosses the street on red light to identify themselves.
Private security guards, porters or bouncers, (in order to grant you access to their premises) conductors on the Dutch Railways (NS), and financial institutions (in order to report unusual transactions) may also ask for identification documents.
Not all documents that state your name are valid identification documents. To identify yourself, you have to use your passport, Dutch identity card, ID card or passport from an EEA country, or a Dutch immigration document. EU driving licenses are not a valid identification document, because they do not contain information about your residence and nationality.
You can ask for identification too
You may ask the police officer, supervisor or conductor to identify themselves, however, in special cases an agent can only provide a number (for example members of the Mobile Unit). This can be important, for example, if you want to submit a complaint about their conduct.
If you disagree with the actions of the police when asking for an identification document, you can submit a complaint against the police officers concerned at the police stations where he/she is employed. Each police station has its own complaints procedure.
As a citizen, and especially as an international, it is very important to know both your obligations, and your right, in order to recognize, and call out misconduct on the part of officials.