Decrease in use of force by police in major Randstad cities

Decrease in use of force by police in major Randstad cities

According to research by, police in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht cumulatively resorted to forceful tactics less often in 2013 than in 2012.

In 2013, police used methods of force in these Randstad cities a total of 6.344 times, a 3,5 per cent decrease from the 6.588 cases in 2012.

Measurements of police force

The source of the data used in the report comes from a request by via the Wet openbaarheid van bestuur (Wbo) for access to documents in the National Police archive.

In order to determine the total numbers related to force for each city, indicators including the use of pepper spray or a baton, firing a weapon or deploying a police dog were tallied on the basis of post-incident reports. 

For each incident requiring force in these cities, the policemen or agents involved are required to fill out a form that recounts what happened.

Unfortunately, a nationwide analysis is virtually impossible due to differences in reporting methods between regional units.

Amsterdam police still use most force

From 2012 to 2013, the total number of instances requiring police to use a method of force in resolving a conflict dropped for Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, while The Hague saw a minor increase.

The city requiring the most use of police force was, quite unsurprisingly, Amsterdam where the total number of incidents decreased from 3.180 in 2012 to 3.124 in 2013.

Rotterdam and Utrecht also saw noticeable decreases in the same time period: from 876 to 715 and from 540 to 524, respectively.

Meanwhile, The Hague witnessed a minor increase in incidents requiring police to use force with a total of 1.971 instances in 2013 compared to 1.962 in 2012.

The Dutch police are unable to offer a definitive explanation for the trends, reasoning that it could be the result of less incidences occurring overall or that agents have become better at de-escalating situations before the use of force is necessary.

Police firearm use in Randstad cities

The statistics in the report regarding police firearm use are divided into the amount of times a firearm was drawn and the amount of times a shot was actually fired.

In Amsterdam, police fired their weapon just 17 times in 2013 compared to 21 in 2012.

However, the amount of times a weapon was drawn increased from 239 in 2012 to 301 in 2013.

Of the four major cities, only the police in Amsterdam do not report the difference between a shot fired as a warning versus a shot fired at a definitive target.

Rotterdam and The Hague had markedly less instances of police firearm use in 2013, with just 16 and seven shots fired respectively.

In Rotterdam, only three of the 16 shots were aimed at a target, while the remaining 13 were warning shots. This is a substantial decrease from the 26 targeted shots fired in 2010. In total, the Rotterdam police drew a weapon 208 times.

The Hague and Utrecht witnessed the lowest amount of police firearm usage. 

In The Hague, three of the seven total shots fired were warning shots, down from the 11 warning and six targeted in 2012. In Utrecht, there was just one targeted shot fired by police agents in 2013.

Pepper spray, police dogs & batons

Pepper spray was by far the most used method of force, occurring 619 times throughout the four Randstad cities in 2013.

With 207 total instances, the second most used method of force was a baton, the most cases being in Amsterdam.

The deployment of a police dog was also a sign of force which happened 104 times in 2013, most often in The Hague.

Of all municipalities with more than 25 reported incidents analysed, Bloemendaal witnessed the largest increase in registered uses of force by police (70,6 per cent higher) from 2012 to 2013.

Benjamin Garstka


Benjamin Garstka

Raised in Massachusetts. University years in New York City. Graduate school in Utrecht. Amsterdammer by choice. Cultuurliefhebber. Urbanist. Affinity for sarcasm, craft beers, art criticism, stand-up comedy and the Dutch...

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