Amsterdam police oppose civilian observers – and call theirs | Netherlands


A policy of randomly searching people on the streets of Amsterdam is currently being tested by police in response to the increase in gun crime among young people, but the police union s is opposed to the involvement of civilian observers.

To allay fears that the searches involve ethnic profiling, a team of civilian observers has been deployed and tasked with reporting any suspicious trends.

But the police union – angered at what it sees as an insult to its professionalism – has, in turn, deployed its own observers to observe civilian observers.

“We do not find it acceptable that there are civilian observers,” said Jan Struijs, president of the Dutch Police Association, after a meeting with the mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema. “It breeds mistrust and there is no reason to doubt the confidence of the police. The mayor thought so too.

“As police unions, we will send professional observers from our own ranks,” Struijs added. “We will also be doing our own report as we have no confidence in these civilian observers.”

For a month from Wednesday, the police have been carrying out “preventive searches” in five districts of the city where there is evidence of an increase in the number of firearms: Bijlmer-Centrum, Burgwallen Nieuwe Zijde, Geuzenveld, Dapperbuurt and Waterlandpleinbuurt.

The plan has been criticized by Amnesty International, which has insisted on using observers as a safeguard against racial profiling. In a 2020 survey by local authorities, more than half of those polled said they believed such profiling played a role in their contact with the police.

After a recent meeting with Halsema, an Amnesty spokesperson said steps had been taken in the right direction in response to his concerns about the policy, with 45 civilians being used to oversee the police.

“In the trial which begins today, for example, every umpteenth passer-by is being checked,” Amnesty spokesman said. “In this way, ethnic profiling could be avoided. Nevertheless, we will continue to take a critical look at the radical actions that will take place in the coming days. “

Halsema faced opposition from a majority in Amsterdam’s city council over the initiative, but said it was necessary given the increase in crimes involving guns.

Passers-by, bags and vehicles will be searched. Participation is compulsory at the request of a police officer. Children up to 12 years old, families and people over 65 will not be searched.

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