Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus has said again he does not back automatically giving local authority wardens pepper spray and truncheons to protect themselves.
‘Police should be the only ones allowed to use violence,’ Grapperhaus said ahead of a strike by wardens as part of their campaign to be armed.
‘If we give wardens weapons, we are turning them into a local authority police force, which would require the appropriate training. I don’t think this would help us,’ Grapperhaus said.
The wardens are taking action in several cities in support of their long-running campaign to be given weapons on Tuesday. Known as boas, or
buitengewoon opsporingsambtenaren in Dutch, the wardens are civil servants who focus on public order issues, ranging from issuing parking tickets to tracking down truants.
‘So far this year we have had to deal with as much as violence as we did last year,’ union spokesman Ruud Klein said. ‘Fines are higher during this corona period, and that increases the risk of aggression.’
The call for weapons has intensified since one warden was hospitalised after he was set upon teenagers on IJmuiden beach at the weekend after trying to stop the youngsters jumping off a pier. During the Easter break, a group of wardens were also attacked in Rotterdam.
Grapperhaus condemned the attack, which was filmed and placed on social media, and said that people must follow the wardens’ instructions.
But the use of bodycams and an emergency alarm should be sufficient, he said, pointing out that many mayors are worried about where the chain of responsibility would go if the wardens are armed.
Under current rules, the wardens can be equipped with pepper spray, truncheons and even guns if they have undergone proper training and if it is considered necessary at a given moment. And some local authorities already give their wardens some form of weapon as a matter of course.
In Amsterdam, wardens do not have weapons, and the city’s police force had opposed the move. But in May 2019 Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema wrote to the justice ministry outlining her wish to equip the city council’s street wardens with pepper spray.
Rotterdam’s mayor opposes weaponising the wardens but the city is equipping all its 400 boas with bodycams at a cost of €250,000, city officials decided at the end of last year.
‘Using violence is a serious matter,’ said police spokesman Jaco van Hoorn. ‘Sometimes you need to use it, but it is never nice. And you have to use violence as sparingly as possible.’
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