Police violence in the Netherlands increased 26% in 2021 vs. 2019

Dutch Police used more violence in 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019, which they explain by increased discontent from society and people questioning authority.

Dutch police force in the Netherlands
Dutch police | © Ben Koorengevel, 2017

In the Netherlands, the police used force during 18,477 incidents in 2021, an increase of 12% compared to 2020 and 27% to 2019. This accounts for 2,000 more situations where coercion was used, according to the statistics released by the Netherlands Police on April 7.

Moreover, the police recorded 30,046 violent acts from officers in 2021, a 26% increase compared to the 23,939 uses of violence in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report explains this increased use of force is a consequence of the pandemic and the effects of health restrictions on society. “We do our job in a society where there is discontent and where authority is increasingly being questioned. You can see that in the nature of the incidents,” said Police Chief Commissioner Frank Paauw in charge of overseeing police brutality.

Coercive actions recorded by the police as violent acts can be the use of physical force (55% of the cases), the use of a firearm (8%) – most of the time police officers only aimed at someone with it – the use of a baton (5%), pepper gas (4%), handcuffs (3%), etc. Officers recorded 78 deliberate shots at individuals with a firearm.

The use of pepper gas, water cannons and mounted police has especially grown due to the number of protests against coronavirus restrictions last year.

The country experienced riots in January and November 2021 when authorities announced a curfew and restrictions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. And sometimes, things “got out of hand,” according to the Public Prosecution Service (OM).

Last week, the OM also notedincreased social unrest and declining confidence in government actions”.

More than 1,200 people were suspected of resisting the police and 1,046 cases were filled for assault against public officials, mostly police officers, in 2021. Overall, the highest numbers of incidents and uses of coercion by the police were recorded in the Hague with 2,911 incidents and 4,574 uses of force last year.

If justice handled roughly the same number of criminal cases in 2021 and 2020, provisional statistics show lawsuits for threats grew 8% to 2020 and 29% to 2019. Moreover, trials for sedition (254) doubled compared to 2020 and accounted for almost six times as many cases as in 2019 (43).

The Netherlands Police has been recording its violence for the third year, which Frank Paauw says helps them “better assess how the use of force went, whether it went well and whether we would do the same next time. This way, we continue to learn from our use of force.

He also noted that officers didn’t have to use violence in 99% of the incidents. In 2021, the police recorded almost 15 million incidents and the use of force accounted for 0.12% of cases. Coercive means were used 30,046 times during the 18,477 incidents recorded.

Ninety percent of the assessments concluded that the officers used force appropriately and within the legal framework. During internal reviews, 231 officers, 2% of those who used force, didn’t act “professionally”.

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