Dutch police fired their guns less last year but overall violence increased

May 3, 2023  -Dutch police fired their weapons at people 86 times last year, issued 133 warning shots and drew their weapons without firing a further 1,499 times last year, according to new police figures.

The number of times the police used their guns is down on previous years but it needs further analysis to find out why, the report, published on Wednesday, stated. In total, the number of incidents in which the police used violence rose 18% last year to 20,667, and ‘increasing polarization in society’ is likely to be the main cause, the report said. ‘Citizens and government are increasingly on opposing sides.

The rise in protests which follows on from this led to more use of violence,’ the report stated. In addition, police were called out to deal with more incidents involving people showing erratic behaviour, and this too could help explain the increase. As in 2021, most incidents took place in The Hague region (3,174), followed by Oost-Nederland and Amsterdam. It is the fourth year in a row that the number of incidents in which the police used violence has gone up.

‘It is difficult to say if the increase in the use of violence by the police is linked to the coronavirus period,’ police chief Frank Pauw said. ‘We will get a better idea of that after the 2023 figures. There were more demonstrations during the coronavirus pandemic and there was no nightlife, but we need more to explain the rise.’

Pauw also said the figures show the ‘positive effect of the taser’. Police officers threated to use tasers some 3,300 times and used them just over 1,000 times. The threat of the taser often allowed police to get the situation under control and this, in turn, may have helped the police to use their guns or batons less frequently, Pauw said. ‘What does concern me is the violence that we are being forced to use against vulnerable people,’ he said.

‘Taking care of them is not a police job, given that many of the people the police come into contact with who show confused behaviour but are not causing problems, violent or dangerous.’ The police dealt with 720 complaints about their use of violence last year, of which 16 involved the use of dogs and 12 centred on guns. In total, 21 people died in an incident involving the police. The total includes ‘people who died in the cell after an overdose or due to a cardiac arrest, or during a chase,’ a police spokeswoman told Dutch News. According to public prosecution department figures, one person was shot dead by police in the first half of 2022 and seven were injured.

The full year figures will be published later this month. In 2021, two people were shot dead and 25 injured by bullets. A study into police deaths in the period 2016 to 2020 by Bureau Beke found that around 10 people die every year in incidents involving the police. This figure also includes people who die in a cell, or because they have been drinking or taking drugs and come into contact with the police.


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