Dutch riot police are insufficiently organised and trained, and giving officers more weapons such as rubber bullets or paint pellets is not the answer to increasing violence, according to an independent report.
Police officers have experienced an increase in violence from organised trouble makers in recent years, particularly during the coronavirus protests. And according to police chief Frank Paauw, a majority of riot squad chiefs say their teams should be equipped with more ‘non lethal weapons’, if truncheons prove to be inadequate.
The report, by researchers at security advisory bureau Beke, is based on academic literature, media reports, interviews and a questionnaire filled in by 300 riot police officers. It was commissioned by the national force.
The report found that the police were having to deal with more organised violence during coronavirus related riots, but that there are other ways of tackling the problem than simply giving police more weapons.
The risk, for example, of hitting innocent bystanders with rubber bullets or paint balls is considerable and there have been cases abroad of people being seriously injured or even killed by ‘non lethal’ weapons, the researchers pointed out.
There is also a risk of ‘function creep’, in which weapons are used in situations where they were not intended for, or are used instead of less violent methods to head off confrontation.
Instead, more attention should be paid to the organisation and training of riot squad officers and to speedy decision making, the report’s authors said. Riot police, the report said, are using the same tactics they developed 20 years ago and troublemakers are now using this to their advantage.
Police chiefs have said they accept the report recommendations but have not ruled out the introduction of new weapons. The national force said in a press release at the weekend that ‘additions to the existing weaponry’ remain an option.
Dutch riot police are currently equipped with short and long truncheons, and can also call on the use of dogs, horses, water canon and tear gas.
Early next year, the police will embark on a major exercise to make sure the police are ‘up to strength’ and ready to deal with organised and targeted violence.
‘The police are no longer seen as neutral by part of the population but as part of the riots and the demonstrations,’ Paauw said. ‘You have to ask if the available resources are still sufficient to enable us to do our job.’
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