And so, with five other MP’s who have also done the Police Parliamentary Scheme, to Holland to see how they police their country.
Sir George with Lt Col van der Brink at Schiphol Airport
We went to the airport to see how they deport illegal migrants (possibly the most difficult job in their service) and also to examine security. We were told we would meet their “explosive dogs”. Initially, I thought they had invented a ingenious counter-terrorist device. A friendly, but well-built, Labrador would be infiltrated into some terrorist cell and, at an appropriate time, it would be detonated by remote control, sending the terrorists and the dog to their respective destinations. I was about to explain that, in the UK, the animal welfare lobby would never let us get away with it, when I felt a wet nose in my crutch. The sniffer dogs had arrived.
Of all the European Police Forces, the Dutch most closely resembles our own. While some other countries arrest and lock up at the utterance of an oath, the Dutch have a strong community based police force, whose instincts are to defuse and to de-escalate, and only to arrest when all else has failed. They do between four and six years on the same beat, and the beat policemen can achieve significant seniority. Walking round Amsterdam with them, in an area where 85% of the population is from an ethnic minority, I was impressed by the good relationships between police and policed. They have hardly any democratic input into their police service; the local Mayor has a say, but he is appointed and not elected. More of them seemed to be armed, and they have fewer women officers. They also seem able to keep more records than we do of events that don’t lead to a charge.
During dinner at the Ambassador’s Residence, the issue of parking tickets for diplomats was raised. My neighbour, who worked at the Embassy and had had his windscreen frequently decorated, told me how he discussed this at a high-level meeting at Police Headquarters. At the end of the meeting, the Chief of Police rose to his feet and said “We would now like to present you with something that will ensure you never get another parking ticket from us”
The envoy’s eyes lit up, as he awaited some badge that he could place in his car, to ward off the warders and grant immediate immunity.
A key ring, with a timer attached to it, slid across the table.