Modernized law book to increase workload of Dutch police: police chiefs

Dutch police officers responding to a report of a crime
Dutch police officers responding to a report of a crimePhoto: Politie

The modernization of the Criminal Procedure Code will cost police officers more time working on administration, and that comes at the expense of other important tasks like investigation, two police higher ups warned in the Volkskrant on Tuesday.

The Criminal Procedure Code stipulates the rights and obligations of suspects and investigators alike. But most of the current book originates from 1921, which means that modernization is desperately needed, especially given the rise of cybercrime. A group of 25 lawyers and policy officials from the Ministry of Security and Justice have been working on rewriting the Code since 2014. 

In principle the police supports modernizing the Criminal Procedure Code. But the proposal as it now stands will only cause more problems, according to the police chiefs. Already it's clear that the modernization will mean that 50 thousand officers will need to be retrained. And 1,300 training programs will have to be changed.

"Investigations often take a long time due to an unnecessarily heavy administrative burden", Wilbert Paulissen, head of the National Detectives, said to the newspaper. "As I see the bill now, that will not change. I fear even more bureaucratic red tape." According to him, detectives already have to answer for every action - eavesdropping, chasing, surveillance. "That's good too, but if a detective has to fill out a form with a KNMI weather report on the day of a murder that the prosecutor then has to confirm in writing, you can wonder if we are spending our time well."

Police project manager Yvonne Pools also foresees problems. "The police want to be a flexible, viable organization that can respond well to the rapidly changing society. The new bill doesn't fit with that yet. We see a heavier workload. And the new rules can put flexibility at risk", she said to the newspaper.

The police express similar sentiments in a statement on the police website: "While the new Criminal Procedure Code makes detection more effective in parts, other components make the police work more complex and more difficult. The new rules will lead to more administrative burdens, waiting times will increase and extra permission moments are expected to further aggravate daily work in the investigative practice."

Deputy chief of the National Police, Henk van Essen, explained this to NOS Radio 1. "When we feel that an act is superfluous, or double, we experience it as an administrative burden. For example, if we want to read data carriers, we would like on ONE investigation to ask ONE permission to read everything, such as phones or digital cameras. But now we have to request an order for each data carrier", he said. "When we are dealing with administration, with unnecessary tasks, we can not spend our time on other things like surveillance and analyzing. That is one of the concerns we have, that we would like to see that burden lessen."

The Ministry of Security and Justice considers it too early to draw conclusions about the consequences of the modernized Code, according to the Volkskrant. Each proposal will be tested on the impact of implementation and changes were already made based on contributions from the police, a spokesperson said to the newspaper.