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The Dutch police are standardly equipped with a truncheon, pepper spray, and a 9x19 mm semiautomatic service weapon.  They may also be authorized to use long batons, handcuffs, a coupling device, a safety vest, and aftercare resources in the use of pepper spray.  Units involved in carrying out arrests have explosives, noise and smoke grenades, stun guns, grenade launchers and CS gas canisters, semiautomatic and automatic firearms, repeating firearms, and pulsating weapons.  The police also apparently have the use of SWAT armored vehicles.  The use of weapons by the police is regulated by a set of rules that specify the circumstances under which each type of weapon is to be used.  These rules, as well as the Police Act 2012, also specify the conditions for the acceptable use of force.

I.  Introduction

As of January 1, 2013, the Dutch police force was reorganized, doing away with the former twenty-five regional forces and combining them with the National Police Services Agency (Korps landelijke politiediensten, or KLPD) into a single national police force comprising a national-level unit and ten regional units.[1]

The Ministry of Security and Justice now has full accountability for the police force, whereas formerly it had shared dual responsibility with the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.[2]  The Minister determines the police force budget and the framework within which the force carries out its tasks.[3]  A national police commissioner, responsible for managing all ten regional units, heads the entire police force and a four-person command force; each of the regional units has a chief constable.[4] 

Local police authority was not affected by the reorganization.  “The mayor and the chief public prosecutor will still make local agreements about police deployment.  Each municipality will draw up a public safety and security plan, which will serve as a basis for the mayor’s management of the police.”[5]

A.  Police Officers

It was reported in 2013 that the total number of police employees was 63,000 and that the annual budget of the national police was over €5 billion (about US$6.6 billion).[6]  This includes a corps of voluntary police officers, stated to number about 1,500, who, after undergoing extensive training, have the same powers and perform the same tasks as the professional police officers.[7]

Under the direct authority and control of the Board of Procurators General, the Rijksrecherche (Dutch National Police Internal Investigation Department) investigates all cases of serious injury or death involving the use of firearms by police officers, as well as alleged criminal conduct of government officials.[8]

B.  Constabulary

The police may also work in concert with the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (RNLM, Koninklijke Marechaussee), the Dutch constabulary, which is under the control of the Ministry of Defense.[9]  The RNLM “is a gendarmerie corps, i.e., a police corps with military status,” whose “personnel are both military and police personnel” and who are “deployable in all situations at home and abroad in the interests of security.”[10]  The RNLM may assist the police, and the police may also assist the RNLM.[11] 

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II.  Police Weapons and Equipment

The specific types of weapons that the Dutch police may use in performing their duties are governed by the Decision on the Arming and Equipping of the Police.[12]  In general, a police officer will be armed with a truncheon, pepper spray, and a service weapon (pistool, defined as a 9x19 mm semiautomatic); the police chief may also determine that an officer should be armed with a long baton.[13]  The police chief may determine that officers also be equipped with tie-wraps if necessary.[14]  Additional equipment includes tactical vests, bulletproof helmets, gas masks, and shields.[15]

Officers who belong to arrest and support units (aanhoudings- en ondersteuningseenheid) will also be equipped with explosives, noise and smoke grenades, electric batons, grenade launchers and CS gas canisters, semiautomatic shoulder firearms, automatic shoulder firearms, repeating firearms, and pulsating weapons (stroomstootwapen).[16]  Officers conducting their duties with a police dog may also be equipped with electric batons.[17]

The Decision further specifies that in addition to the regular equipment, officers involved in monitoring and security duties may also bear semiautomatic shoulder firearms; mobile units may also be equipped with long batons, grenade launchers and CS gas canisters, and water cannon; and officers in charge of personal security operations may also have grenade launchers and CS gas canisters, smoke and noise grenades, semi-automatic shoulder firearms, and automatic shoulder firearms.

According to the Army Technology website, the KLPD has in its fleet a BearCat G2 armored SWAT vehicle, producted by Lenco Armor, as well as a Lenco BEAR and BearCat.[18]

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III.  Rules on the Use of Police Weapons

According to the Police Act 2012, a police officer appointed to carry out police duties is authorized, in the legitimate exercise of his/her office, to use force or means of constraint when the aim and associated risks justify its use and cannot otherwise be achieved.  Force may also be used as a warning.[19]  In order to provide assistance to persons in need of it, police officers are authorized to gain access to any place to the extent reasonably necessary,[20] and to conduct a search of individuals if there appears to be an imminent threat to life or safety that the search may avert.[21]

Specific rules on the use of force and the handling of each type of police weapon are set forth in the Official Instruction for the Police, Royal Constabulary, and Other Investigative Officials.[22]  Chapter 2 of the Instruction is on the use of force.  In general, the use of force by a lawfully authorized official is permitted when executing a task for which violent means are sanctioned.[23]  If a superior officer is onsite, the police officer will generally not use force without an explicit order from the superior officer.[24]

In regard to firearms, for example, the Instruction states that the use of a firearm, except for automatic or long-range precision firearms, is permitted in respect of persons who, among other acts, can “reasonably be assumed” to be ready to use a firearm against individuals; or who attempt to evade or have evaded arrest, arraignment, or other lawful custody, and are suspected of committing or have been convicted of a crime for which the sentence is at least four years’ imprisonment, and which constitutes a serious threat to “physical integrity or privacy,” or to society.[25]  The Instruction also addresses automatic weapons, long-range precision firearms, firearms loaded with nonpenetrating ammunition (to which the prescriptions for other firearms, such as those stated above, do not apply), pepper spray, CS gas, water cannon, police dogs, and electric batons (to be used only against aggressive animals with the permission of the superior officer).[26]

A police officer who has used force must immediately report the facts and circumstances of the incident, and the effects thereof, to his/her superior officer.[27]  The police are to bring the officer’s report to the attention of the prosecutor in the district where the incident occurred within forty-eight hours, if in the view of the police chief the use of force has consequences or has caused more than minor bodily injury or death, or if a firearm was fired one or more times.[28]  In the first half of 2014, the Rijksrecherche investigated nineteen shooting incidents involving police officers’ use of firearms in the performance of their duties.  The shootings resulted in seventeen injuries and two fatalities, but the fatalities were suicides, not deaths caused by the police firearm.[29]

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IV.  Controversies

In March 2013, it was reported that the Dutch Minister of Defence, Jeanine Hennis, had confirmed to members of the Dutch Parliament, in response to the privacy implications of drone use, that drones owned by the Ministry “are regularly used in the Netherlands to carry out police work.”[30]  A newspaper article published earlier that month had stated that the technology was “used to trace burglars and getaway cars as well as illegal marijuana plantations.”[31]  According to one source, “drones have been used 551 times since their use in civilian surveillance was agreed in 2009,” although police contend that images captured by drones were not kept.[32]

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Wendy Zeldin
Senior Legal Research Analyst
September 2014


[1] Politiewet 2012 (July 12, 2012, in force Jan. 1, 2013, last amended effective May 1, 2013), art. 21(1), http://wetten. overheid.nl/BWBR0031788/geldigheidsdatum_02-09-2014; Organisation of the Dutch Police, Government of the Netherlands, http://www.government.nl/issues/police/organisation-of-the-dutch-police (last visited Aug. 29, 2014).  See also Government of the Netherlands, National Police 4 (Aug. 4, 2011), http://www.government. nl/issues/police/documents-and-publications/leaflets/2011/08/04/national-police.html (includes a map of the twenty-five regional forces and the then newly proposed ten regional units).

[2] Police Reorganisation: A National Police Force, Government of the Netherlands, http://www.government.nl/ issues/police (last visited Aug. 29, 2014); Police and Safety Regions Department, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Policing in the Netherlands 13 (Jan. 2009), available at http://www.interpol.int/ content/download/11814/82014/version/1/file/POLICE%20BROCHURE.pdf.

[3] Police Reorganisation: A National Police Force, supra note 2.

[5] Police Reorganisation: A National Police Force, supra note 2.

[6] Koenderink, supra note 4.

[7] Organisation of the Dutch Police, supra note 1.

[8] Onderzoek naar vuurwapengebruik politiefunctionarissen [Investigation of Police Use of Firearms], http://www. rijksrecherche.nl/nieuwsberichten-rr/nieuwsbericht-1/ (last visited Sept. 3, 2014).  See also The Rijksrecherche (Dutch National Police Internal Investigation Department), IAACA (Feb. 10, 2012), http://www.iaaca.org/Anti CorruptionAuthorities/ByCountriesandRegions/N/Netherlandsjigou/201202/t20120210_802453.shtml; The National Police Internal Investigations Department or Rijksrecherche, Openbaar Ministerie [Public Prosecution Service] (Nov. 10, 2008), http://www.om.nl/vast_menu_blok/english/the_national_police/.

[9] Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, Ministry of Defense, http://www.defensie.nl/english/organisation/ marechaussee (last visited Sept. 2, 2014).

[11] Politiewet 2012, arts. 57 & 62 (specifically) and §§ 5.1 & 5.3 (in general); see also Samenwerkingsregeling politie-Koninklijke marechaussee [Collaborative Work Arrangements Police-Royal Constabulary] (as last amended effective Jan. 1, 2013), http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0012415/geldigheidsdatum_03-09-2014.

[12] Besluit van 13 oktober 2012, houdende regels over de bewapening, de uitrusting en de kleding van de politie en de bijzondere bijstandseenheden alsmede regels over de taakuitvoering door de politie en de eisen aan de bekwaamheid van de ambtenaren van politie en van de bijzondere bijstandseenheden (Besluit bewapening en uitrusting politie) [Decision of 13 October 2012, Containing Rules on Armaments, Equipment and Clothing of the Police and the Special Support Units as well as Rules on the Tasks Performed by the Police and the Competency Requirements for Police Officers and the Special Support Units (Decision on the Arming and Equipping of the Police)] (Oct. 13, 2012, in force on Jan. 1, 2013), http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0032136/geldigheidsdatum_02-09-2014.

[13] Id. arts. 1(c), 2(1)(a)–(c), 2(2).  The service weapon currently in use is the Walther P5.  “Welke Uitrustinig draagt een Agent?” [“What Equipment Does an Officer Carry?”], Uniform en Uistrusting, Politie, http://www.politie.nl/ onderwerpen/uniform-en-uitrusting.html (last visited Sept. 3, 2014).

[14] Besluit bewapening en uitrusting politie art. 2(3)(a)–(d) & (4).

[15] Id. art. 2(5).

[16] Id. arts. 6(7) & 13.

[17] Id. art. 8(a).

[18] Lenco Armor to Display BearCat® SWAT APC at Eurosatory 2014, Army-Technology (June 10, 2014), http://www.army-technology.com/contractors/armoured/lenco-armored-vehicles/presslenco-display-bearcat-eurosatory-2014.html.

[19] Politiewet 2012, art. 7(1).

[20] Id. art. 7(2).

[21] Id. art. 7(3).

[22] Ambtsinstructie voor de politie, de Koninklijke marechaussee en andere opsporingsambtenaren [Official Instruction for the Police, Royal Constabulary, and Other Investigative Officials] (Apr. 8, 1994, as last amended effective Jan. 1, 2013), http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0006589/geldigheidsdatum_03-09-2014.

[23] Id. art. 4.

[24] Id. art. 5(1).

[25] Id. art. 7(1)(a), (b).

[26] Id. arts. 8–16.

[27] Id. art. 17(1).

[28] Id. art. 17(3).  Or, if a constabulary officer is involved, the Commander of the Royal Dutch Constabulary is to bring the report to the attention of the Prosecutor in Charge of Military Affairs in Arnhem.

[29] Rijksrecherche onderzocht 19 schietincidenten in eerste helft 2014 [Dutch National Police Internal Investigation Department Investigated 19 Shooting Incidents in the First Half of 2014], Rijksrecherche, http://www. rijksrecherche.nl/@162942/rijksrecherche/ (last visited Sept. 3, 2014).

[30] Use of Drone Aircraft by Police Is Increasingly Secretive: nu.nl, Dutch News.nl (Mar. 28, 2013), http://www. dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2013/03/use_of_drone_aircraft_by_polic.php.

[31] Id.

[32] Id. (citing Jerry Vermanen, ‘Overheid moet duidelijkheid geven over drones’ [‘Government Must Provide Clarity About Drones’], NU.nl (Mar. 28, 2013, 7:16 AM, updated Aug. 21, 2013, 9:20 AM), http://www.nu.nl/ binnenland/3380831/overheid-moet-duidelijkheid-geven-drones.html).

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Last Updated: 06/09/2015