Police officers in Northern Netherlands resorted to violence to restore order more often in the past two years, reports the Groningen Internet Courant. According to the police, the reason for the increase is people having a “shorter fuse” due to the pandemic.
In 2019, 916 violent incidents were recorded, while in 2020 the police used some amount of force in 1,198 cases. In 2021, the incidents involving violent responses from police were 1,363, while the total number of violent acts from police officers was 2,127 (since more than one officer can be involved in one single incident).
According to Joop de Schepper, head of the Operations Unit in Northern Netherlands, people’s fuses have become somewhat shorter due to the corona time: “Groups of people sometimes sought confrontation with each other, but also with us. During interactions with citizens which would normally go smoothly, underlying irritation regularly surfaced.”
Most incidents – nationally at 55 percent – did not require the use of a weapon. The police mentioned an increase in the use of batons, water cannons and tear gas and more often deployment of the mounted police. These increases are being explained, among other things, by the many anti-lock-down demonstrations in which the police had to act last year.
In 2019, the Dutch police have instituted a Violence Abuse Commission, tasked with assessing the use of force when the firearms are involved (aimed or shot), when more than minor injuries have been caused as a result of the force used, or if an assessment is requested by the assistant public prosecutor. If the commission deems the use of force under investigation non-professional, disciplinary measures or even criminal prosecution may follow.
Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have been expressing worry about police forces using the pandemic as an excuse for infringing citizens’ rights and using violence undisturbed, but Joop de Schepper seemed confident that is not the case: “Society must be able to rely on the fact that we use violence professionally and that we deal responsibly with our powers of violence. We look critically at our own performance. In the vast majority of cases, colleagues deal with their authority to use force in a professional manner. Where that did not go well, we take appropriate measures.”