Many problems still surround police reorganization: report

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Dutch police logoPhoto: Politie

Five years after the regional police forces in the Netherlands reorganized into the National Police, there are still numerous problems, the Kuijken committee concluded after investigating the state of affairs in the police reorganization. It is still a work in progress, the committee said its report, ANP reports.

The idea behind combining the 26 regional forces into one, was to form a better police organization that would ultimately lead to a safer Netherlands. But the rapid introduction of the National Police turned out to be a "double-edged sword", according to the committee. A breakthrough was forced on a file that stranded or deadlocked for long periods several times in the past. "A hefty price was also paid for that", the committee concluded. It had a major impact on the people and relationships within the organization.

The plans for the reorganization were adjusted in 2015, and that was badly needed as it helped calm down the tensions. Replacing Gerard Bouman as National Police Chief had the same effect. But much more is needed, according to the report. 

One of the suggestions the committee makes, is to make the command structure in the National Police less complex. The Ministry of Justice and Security still has too many roles in the National Police, according to the report. The Ministry is "owner", order giver and order taker and has authority over a number of tasks. This should be reduced and the National Police Chief should be given more power, the committee suggests. 

The reorganization also included merging the IT systems of the 26 regional forces into one, as working on one integrated system would mean that the officers in all regions can do their daily work better, faster and in the same way. The committee found that the National Police's IT system is still far from running smoothly. The reorganization of this system was scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, but it will take years yet. The delay means that the regional forces are still working on their own outdated systems. 

This is worrisome and involves risks, Tom Rodrigues, the supervisor of the IT policy program, concluded in the report. "The information technology is still a patchwork of basic tasks such as registration of information, declarations and investigations", he said. He added that the police did a lot of work on improving the IT system over the past six years, but there is still much more to be done. "The stability has certainly improved. Applause for this." he said. But now another two computer systems have to be added to streamline the work process of officers and detectives, and further innovation must be started immediately. "A system only lasts for seven to ten years."

According to Rodrigues, agreements with the Tweede Kamer have not yet been complied with. And at the same time things were done with the available money that had not been agreed to. For example, all officers now have an app on their cellphones with which they can request and enter information more quickly. 

The Kuijken committee concludes that it is unable to say whether the large-scale reorganization led to a better performing police organization. Perhaps they can make this conclusion in their next evaluation over five years.

The government is taking the recommendations on further adjustments to the National Police very seriously, Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security said after receiving the report on Thursday, according to the news wire. He will discuss the report "in open dialogue" with the police chief, mayors, the Public Prosecutor, and the police unions and announce a position next spring. "I'm going to work on it in the coming time", the Minister said. He did not want to comment on individual recommendations, such as transferring power from the Ministry to the National Police Chief. 

National Police Chief Erik Akerboom acknowledged the delays in merging the IT system, ANP reports. He believes that another three to five years will be needed to get the system ready and running smoothly. According to Akerboom, merging IT systems is very complex, let alone merging 26 systems that are in full use every day.

Dick Heerschop, IT chief at the police, emphasized that police officers can already do everything they need to do on the IT system, "but it is inefficient and unnecessarily expensive", he said according to the news wire. According to him, the foundation has been set and from now on "the house" can be built.