Police trust issues putting international information network at risk: report

Dutch police
A sign hanging in front of a Dutch police post. April 30, 2006Photo: M.M.Minderhoud via Michiel1972Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA

Increasing trust issues between police officers in the National Unit is putting the intelligence work this police service is responsible for at serious risk, newspaper NRC reports based on conversations with people involved. The intelligence gathered by the National Unit is used for tackling terrorism and serious crime, including drug trafficking from Spain and Colombia. 

Cops in the National Unit complained to NRC about favoritism, an attitude of ignoring complaints, abuse of power, tampering with declarations, and discrimination by police leadership. These issues have created obstacles in the international information exchange and the management of the 50 liaison officers working in 33 different countries. The team leader of the unit in charge of international information exchange and the supervision of liaison officers has been at home on sick leave for a month due to a labor dispute, according to the newspaper. He no longer trusts the leaders of the unit. 

Internal tensions increased further on Friday with the announcement that another team leader will be appointed as a liaison officer in Poland. Police officers told NRC, that this team leader regularly discriminates against colleagues with a Turkish or Moroccan background.

National Unit officers also complain about unprofessional intelligence work, saying that two informants were murdered after their identity leaked to the underworld. Internal complaints show that another criminal turned informant was given a job at the National Criminal Investigation Department ten years ago because his managers at the National Unit failed to report that he was a criminal source, NRC writes. A few years later, he was arrested and convicted for selling police information on a large scale during his time as a detective.

Whether the cop referred to in these complaints is Mark M. is not clear, but the two cases do bear resemblance. 

M. started working for the police in 2009. He first worked as a detective, but was transferred to the traffic police after intelligence service AIVD refused to give him security clearance. After his transfer, his access to BlueView was not revoked, which meant that he could still access sensitive information for years after he lost clearance. M. was arrested in October 2015, and officially dismissed from the police in June 2016.  Last year he was sentenced to five years in prison for selling confidential police information to criminals through a kind of "subscription service". 

Willem Woelders, deputy head of the National Unit, confirmed to NRC that the liaisons team leader "with great international contacts" being home on sick leave is making intelligence work "extremely difficult". The team leader appointed in Poland is the subject of a disciplinary investigation after complaints from the unit, he said. "This investigation will be completed in a few weeks." He denies that mismanagement led to the murder of two informants. Internal investigations showed "no indications" that the informants were killed due to "culpable behavior" by the police he said. 

Woelders also denies that the the unit leadership ignored complaints about internal abuses in the past. "There was often a lack of concrete indications to initiate investigations", he said. An improvement plan will be developed with a new team leader in order to "restore confidence within the intelligence service", he said.