Police preparedness must be improved

The Netherlands – Police are increasingly facing widespread, organized and targeted violence. That is why a program will be launched in 2023 focused on enhancing, innovating and protecting police readiness. The police said that supplementing existing means of violence is also an option.

A demonstration against corona measures led to violent riots in Rotterdam on November 19, 2021. Even colleagues felt compelled to use their firearms. The impact of this can still be felt. During such excesses we see people who seem well organized and prepared mingle with the demonstrators. They have very heavy explosiveness, seek confrontation and can quickly rally with the help of social media.

In order to make policing safer and more effective against this background, the police force commissioned a study last year by scientists Henk Verwerda and Jaap Timmer. “We wanted to investigate whether we needed additional resources to deal gracefully with changing circumstances,” says Frank Pao, owner of Conflict and Crisis Management Portfolio. “Any expansion of the means of power must of course be weighed very carefully.”

Additional sources

The standard armament for a regular officer currently consists of a canister of pepper spray, an extendable baton, and a service pistol. In addition to the extendable baton, the riot police officer has a long fixed baton. ME can also have dog handlers with watch dogs, ME on horseback, water throwers, and tear gas canisters. Frank: ‘But the vast majority of riot police leaders require additional resources. They are facing a gap between their current armament and the firearm in the end. I can imagine their desire.

Early in 2018, the police commissioned research into what less-than-lethal weapons would qualify and what their added value would be. It is about two types of air cannons that fire non-penetrating projectiles. More specifically: rubber bullets, beanbags, or paint cartridges that mark targets with a color. The conclusion was that the advantages of these methods do not outweigh the disadvantages, including safety risks. Moreover, the violence the police faced at the time did not lead to an expansion of the means of violence available, according to the researchers.

changing circumstances

“But because colleagues experienced that the intensity and focus of violence against them increased sharply in a short period of time, we asked Verwerda and Timmer to investigate whether these changing circumstances lead to a different outcome,” says Frank. Part of the population no longer perceives the police as an impartial body, but itself becomes a party to riots and demonstrations. The question is whether the available resources are still sufficient to perform our task.

Researchers answer this question in the affirmative. As in the previous study, they see no immediate benefit in supplementing with violent means. However, they did note a number of things that they think could be improved. These relate to issues such as information status, decision-making, management, education and training, and capacity and better use of existing less-lethal resources such as tear gas. Existing ME equipment is also worth adjusting. For example, through more protection on the side and back and better hearing protection in the helmet.


The Police Force Department adopts and works with the findings of the investigation. “We have an obligation to ensure maximum safety for our people on the street,” stresses Frank. A new readiness program will be launched next year under the business title Readiness 2.0. Strengthening and sustaining preparedness and innovation is key in this regard. The guiding principles from the research form the pillars of the program which should lead to improvement and innovation.

Frank announced that developments that had already begun would be accelerated, adding new insights and giving business operations a new impetus. “We are already doing a lot right and learning from our mistakes, but there is a reason to strengthen and further develop the application of the general system. We also involve researchers in this. Once improvements are implemented, we will also categorically examine whether the current means of force are sufficient. Because we understand the feelings of the anti-police Riot well.

water launchers

In anticipation of this, the current six water throwing devices will be replaced as soon as possible. During an exercise in June, it became apparent that technical issues could lead to unsafe situations—particularly explosions—and it was decided not to use the existing standard-load water throwers. Frank: “We are working hard on a solution so that we can continue to have water slingers in the short term. It is also being investigated whether smaller, more maneuverable and more water slingers contribute to safer and more efficient work on the street. These types of improvements are in line with our goal of making the readiness organization more future-proof.We are always evaluating the overall package and this also includes adding less-than-lethal weapons to fill potential gaps.

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