Major problems at police intelligence unit means important info is missed: Inspectorate
The police's information and intelligence department has not functioned properly for years, the Justice and Security Inspectorate concluded in a report on Thursday. As a result, there is a great risk of criminal investigations falling apart, the Dutch police getting a poor image abroad, a sickened working atmosphere, and important information being overlooked, the Inspectorate said, NOS and NU.nl report.
The Inspectorate launched an investigation into the National Unit's information organization DLIO in 2019 after signals of inappropriate behavior, poor leadership, abuse of power, and unprofessional actions. The DLIO collects information for various departments within the police. It also exchanges data with police services and intelligence services abroad.
The Inspectorate concluded that understaffing and poor leadership led to serious shortcomings at the DLIO, and this in turn resulted in a tense relationship with foreign police services. "The cooperation was damaged and there was a risk of harm to the international investigation," the Inspectorate said.
After terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 and in Brussels in 2016, the need for international cooperation and information sharing increased significantly. The idea was to prevent terrorists and suspected terrorists from traveling from one country to another unseen. The DLIO missed signals, resulting in one of the Brussels attackers flying to the Netherlands unnoticed, the Inspectorate said.
To prevent similar problems in the future, the pressure on the DLIO was increased, but no extra manpower was added to the department. The service soon faced serious backlogs and there were complaints about the quality of the analyzes that were being delivered. Information didn't arrive in time and operational risks arose, the Inspectorate said. Over the past few years, the DLIO hardly exchanged any information because the department was severely understaffed and its IT systems were outdated and not working properly, according to the Inspectorate.
The problems at the DLIO can be largely attributed to poor leadership, the Inspectorate said. Management focused only on further expanding the department's tasks, while the basic duties collapsed. All kinds of plans were conceived, but never implemented. There was no clear course, and one gap was filled with another. Two parts of the service started to compete with each other in gathering and analyzing information, and the leadership did not put an end to it.
The internal consequence was "a sick working atmosphere, in which people accused each other of abuse of power, favoritism and discrimination", the Inspectorate said. It also raised concerns about some executives' many trips abroad and high expense accounts.
Part of the Inspectorate's investigation focused on the Criminal Collection Team, which maintains contacts with the criminal underworld. The Inspectorate said in its report that the Rijksrecherce, the department that handles internal investigations at government services like the police, and the police are still looking at possible abuses in this team. But based on the preliminary results, the Inspectorate considered unnecessary to continue investigating the Criminal Collection Team itself. Last week newspaper AD reported about this team destroying evidence after one of its informants turned up dead.
The Inspectorate advised the police to first focus on putting things in order at the DLIO and only then to formulate any new ambitions for the department. The police already launched an "improvement program" and several managers have been replaced. But according to the Inspectorate, there is still a long way to go.
The police acknowledged the report's findings and that employees have suffered under the situation, Jannine van den Berg, head of the National Unit, said to NOS. "In many places, things are already getting better, but these kinds of improvements take time because trust must be restored," she said. According to her, the Dutch police always "remained a sufficiently reliable partner internationally."