Police corruption: not only with temptation, but also with threat

In more than 20 million chat messages in the extensive EncroChat investigation, the police have encountered corruption within their own ranks and other investigative services. Jan Struijs, chairman of the Dutch Police Association (NPB), was shocked by the seriousness and scale of the case.

“We see more and more that it is not only about temptation, but also about threat. You see this not only among police officers, but also among civil-law notaries and lawyers. They are being put under particular pressure. The aggressiveness that goes hand in hand with that is what worries me,” says Struijs.

Chief Constable Henk van Essen calls corruption “unmistakable” and there are rotten apples that help criminals. Although corruption is of all times, it seems that it is on the increase, says the chief of police.

But how do you prevent a policeman from becoming a ‘rotten apple’? The EncroChat investigation should provide more insight into this, says police spokesman Robbert Salome. “Questions like: why does a policeman do this? Is someone being put under pressure, is it purely financial gain, or is someone in debt? That is information that is going to help us

Professional question

Struijs wants police officers not only to be trained, but also to be continuously trained when it comes to corruption. “We need to learn from contemporary detriment risks As an example, he gives a policeman who, in his spare time, drinks a beer in a pub, posts a photo of it on social media and is then approached by criminals in the same pub.

“When a policeman or customs officer is put under pressure because criminals say: I’m going to do something with your family, then such a person should be able to report safely that he is being approached”

Police sociologist Jaap Timmer of the Free University of Amsterdam emphasises the importance of trust. “You have to know what’s going on with each other. That also means that you know the private situation. People can change. Someone who has once been screened can become as flat as a dime years later”

According to Struijs there is sometimes a taboo to question each other. “While it is a very professional question to ask what the other person is doing

Cunning and surreptitious

According to Struijs, when a corruption case comes to light, you often hear: ‘Huh? That one! That one is so good’, which indicates that corruption is difficult to recognise. “It‘s sly and covert. Often they are people who are socially very intelligent”

There are countless programmes within the police force that promote transparency. Otto Adang, a behavioural scientist and affiliated with the Police Academy, also agrees that integrity is central to the training. “Four core values have been formulated: integrity, trustworthiness, courage and commitment. If you act contrary to one of these core values, then that is grounds for dismissal,” Adang explains. What should help to identify ‘flat cops‘ sooner is the introduction of the new screening law. This bill is now in the Senate and should make it possible to screen not only new employees, but also those around them. The new law also contains an obligation to report relevant changes in personal circumstances, such as debts, for example.

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“We have been naive’, concludes Jan Struijs of the NPB. “Corruption is a consequence of organised crime. Organised crime has crawled much closer to the government. That undermines and disrupts our society.”

Struijs therefore argues in favour of a ‘Delta Plan’ for the fight against organised crime in the Netherlands, in which the police, customs, tax authorities, military police and the business community work together.

“It is not just about money and people, but there is a problem there. We are now playing with old clothes in the Champions League,” says Struijs. “Take the EncroChat study: it will take four years. I do not think that organised crime will sit still for four years. If it goes on like this, you will always be behind the times”