Opinion: National police

POSTED: 01/4/13 1:23 PM

The Netherlands has something new: the national police. After endless political debate and fierce resistance, the national police came into being on the first day of the New Year. The country has now one police force with one Chief Commissioner – a super Peter de Witte so to speak.

It’s of course good to know that St. Maarten has had a national police like forever, so we’re not all that impressed. We too have one force, and one chief commissioner, though we readily admit: St. Maarten is a tad smaller than the Netherlands.

The Volkskrant wondered what will change in the new situation and the newspaper’s conclusion is: not all that much. But still, maybe there is something to learn there for our own men in blue. Minister Ivo Opstelten (Safety and Justice) has promised that the police are going to become more customer-friendly.

For instance, if someone reports a burglary, the police will report back within two weeks if something will be done with the complaint and what.

For high-impact crimes like rape, the police visit victims at home to record a complaint. And the national police also make it possible to file complaints anywhere. Someone who is robbed in Eindhoven and who lives in Rotterdam is now allowed to file the complaint at his local police station.

In the long run (how long, nobody knows) the police must become more effective, the Volkskrant reports. The police also have to speak with one voice. Until last week there were 26 police forces with 26 chief commissioners who all had their own opinion. There were big differences in approach between the forces while another complaint was that they did not cooperate with each other. The top was not decisive enough, was another point of criticism.

Then the paper comes with a remarkable example of how things did not work well. There were different pieces of advice for girls who ended up on a banga-list. For the uninitiated: a banga list is a list with names of girls who are “easy” in the field of sex.

In some police forces the advice to these girls was to report to the police if they found out that they had been banga-listed. But the Council of Chief Commissioners opposed that.

Hmm, big deal, we figure that it depends on the affected girls what they want to do. We’re not going to suggest to some girls would be thrilled to find themselves on a banga-list, but it is a simple fact of life that something like that has a more profound impact on some girls than it has on others. Those police forces should have said: we’re not into advice. Case closed.

Gerard Bouman is the top dog of the new police organization. He says that the force will become more resolute. As an example he mentioned the establishment of one central police website; citizens are able to use the site to file complaints as well. Without a national police such a uniform site would have never seen the light of day, Bouman said.

This sentence in the Volkskrant-report intrigued us: “also the citizen will spend less tax money on the police.” That almost sounds like people will get money back for a bad product. But no: Minister Opstelten assumes (mind you: assumes) that the national police will be able to work cheaper, for instance by centralizing their purchasing. Opstelten says that this will save the tax payer by the end of this cabinet’s term €160 million ($211 million).

Of course, tax payers won’t see a penny of that money: it could end up anywhere but it won’t come to St. Maarten.

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