Mayors want military patrols to fill gaps in national police shortage; Cabinet says "no"

Dutch police officers (Stock Photo: Politie)Dutch police officers (Stock Photo: Politie)

The mayors of the municipalities of Veenendaal, De Bilt and Utrechtse Heuvelrug want the Ministry of Defense to take over some police duties to fill the gaps caused by the national shortage of police officers. They want soldiers to help with patrolling and security, the mayors intended to say in a motion during the members meeting of the Dutch municipalities association VNG, NOS reports.

The mayors are afraid that their police officers will suffer from burnout with the massive workload on their shoulders. There are fewer and fewer cops on the street in their municipalities, and they are increasingly having to shorten police stations' opening times. Amsterdam also recently announced that the city's police stations will be open less due to the police shortage. 

However, the Cabinet on Friday said it is largely not possible for the military to assist except in specific circumstances. "In specific cases we certainly will provide assistance, but we are not going to perform regular policing duties," said Ank Bijleveld, the Minister of Defense. "We also do not have the people or the means to do that," she said.

Bijleveld pointed out that the military's explosives ordinance disposal teams already assist at active crime scenes, while the Marechaussee military branch conducts surveillance at nationally important locations, and backs up police agencies in special investigations. 

The shortage is partly caused by deployment in national security and surveillance tasks - duties added to the police's plate after the murder of attorney Derk Wiersum. "We do understand that certain choices are being made and we also support that", Mayor Frits Naafs of Utrechtse Heuvelrug said to RTV Utrecht. "We don't like it, but it is what it is. Band-aids are now being stuck to come up with a short-term solution, and it is time that something structural happens."

"We agree that much is being asked of the police," Justice and Security Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said to NOS on Friday. "There is extra money, but that will not immediately solve the problem."

The mayors are also calling for more money to strengthen the police forces faster. De Bilt is facing a structural police shortage until at least 2025, mayor Sjoerd Potters said to NOS. "We want the Minister to release money now to counteract the deficit. Once-off money is being pumped into the problem, but that has to be structural."

Before the Cabinet ministers commented on the proposal, the VNG had responded positively to the planned motion and said the mayors expect that they will receive broad support.