Police versus Civilians - Growing Tensions in the Dutch Public Domain 1985–2005
In the Netherlands many people are complaining that the social climate has been hardening in recent years. This may be illustrated by the increasing number of conflicts between civilians and police officers. Using the archives of the Dutch National Ombudsman, we are trying to establish the extent to which such a tendency actually exists. These archives form an important source of information, as the Ombudsman is charged with addressing complaints from civilians about the behaviour of the police. Our investigation of more than 50 dossiers from the last 25 years suggests that tension between the police and the public is indeed growing. The discrepancy between the behaviours of civilians and those of police officers has made it difficult for either party to understand the other. As a result, escalation has become more likely. The central question of this paper is, therefore: Is it possible to establish a pattern of change in relations between police and civilians over the last twenty-five years in the Netherlands? If so, which factors have contributed to these changes? Are civilians becoming increasingly aggressive, having lost respect for the police? Alternatively, are the police increasingly expecting that civilians will behave themselves, and are they becoming less tolerant of contradiction?
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