Local councils will get the green light to equip their street wardens with short truncheons, and handcuffs will be added to their list of weaponry at a later date, justice minister Dilan Yeşilgöz has told MPs in a briefing.
Councils wishing to provide their wardens with truncheons will have to make a formal request to their local policing authority – made up of the mayor, police chief and head public prosecutor. If they agree, it will be up to the minister to take a final decision.
In addition, at some point in 2023, wardens will also be given access to the national driving licence register, which will allow them to check the identities of people without an ID card so they can issue fines, Yeşilgöz said.
Wardens, known as boas in Dutch, first asked to be equipped with truncheons and pepper spray in 2020, arguing that they were facing increasing violence on the streets.
Previous justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus was initially opposed, saying that the police should retain a monopoly on the use of force. However, he changed his mind after a series of experiments showed that wardens rarely used their weapons but that they did improve their feelings of safety.
The Netherlands has some 23,000 council wardens, whose jobs range from chasing down truants to checking for fare dodgers.
The minister has also confirmed that wardens will not be able to wear headscarves as some had campaigned for.
The job of warden ‘entails a great deal of responsibility and requires a neutral and professional appearance,’ the minister said.
Under official guidelines, wardens who have contact with the public must not show ‘visible expressions of belief, religion, political opinion … or other form of lifestyle that detracts from their authority, neutrality and safety’.
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