The changing 'soul' of Dutch policing: Responses to new security demands and the relationship with Dutch tradition

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Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to address the changing organization and culture of the Dutch police over the last decade. Design/methodology/ approach - Drawing on personal observation, desk research and a survey among the police and administrative elite in The Netherlands, the paper describes, analyzes and reflects upon developments which are out of tune with the Dutch tradition. Findings - From the 1960s onwards, The Netherlands was famous for her pragmatic, decentralized and friendly style of community policing. The slogan "the police are your best friend" summarizes the "essence" or the "soul" of Dutch policing. Increasingly, however, the typically tolerant, friendly and social policing style has come under pressure. The system of relatively independent regional police departments has been fiercely criticized because of the lack of effectiveness and efficiency in solving crime, safety and security challenges. National government now wants a much bigger say in setting its police programs and priorities. Moreover, as elite government officials stipulate, the police must be more "tough" on crime and terrorism. This attitude has led to centralization, penalization and, at the local level, responsibilization, which signifies that a variety of private, (often profit-seeking) policing agencies and companies are made responsible for public order maintenance. Such changes are leading toward a "state- centered" police model at some distance from citizens, a development that is seen as contrary to the social soul of Dutch policing. Originality/value - The paper offers an analysis into the changing "soul" of Dutch policings. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-532
Number of pages15
JournalPolicing : an international journal of police strategies and management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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