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Utterly pointless stop and search operation

Theo Niekus

17 May 2008 - Last Thursday, I witnessed a large-scale stop and search operation, in broad daylight, right at the Damrak. Let me make this clear: I was shocked and it depresses me. What is going on in our Amsterdam? A few years ago, this would have been inconceivable.

I suppose this was yet another case of training new policemen. I still think that policemen should practice at the police academy rather than on unsuspecting consumers. The large majority of the people walking at the Damrak are consumers and tourists. A rather pointless target group!

Does this have anything to do with security? No, nothing. Why are so many people subjecting to these searches without any kind of obstruction? Of course, this is still the police and you are cautious: if you say that you do not want to be searched than you probably have a problem and which law-abiding citizen would want that? INTIMIDATION!

'Sure they can search me, I have nothing to hide. Let them single out the ones who are carrying weapons'. Unfortunately, that is not how it went. With the bright yellow jackets the policemen - about twenty of them - were wearing, arresting people with 'weapons' was out of the question. Further, what is a weapon, what do you search for as a policeman? If you really want to almost any object can be used as a weapon, from key to bankcard. Would there have been any other point to this adolescent exercise?

I told a local policeman that I really found this unacceptable. The first response was: it has been done before, at the Kalverstraat, near the Albert Heijn supermarket behind the Palace. Not only is this not an argument, it also suggests that it is already considered 'normal'. Then of course the word 'preventative' was mentioned, but apart from the fact that nothing preventative was being done here, we soon agreed that as soon as you start do things 'preventatively', anything goes. Since I was taking photographs, and sensed that this was making them insecure, I was of course also approached to be searched. How predictable!

Afterwards you get a card saying that you have been searched 'preventatively' for weapons: 'this does not mean that there is any suspicion against you'. How come there is not? Then how do you select the persons you search? ANYONE is a suspect, and the more often you are in the city centre (EMERGENCY AREA!), and the more often you are being searched, the more suspect you are. This is distrustful and suggestive!

The police wants such operations to run smoothly. They appeal to the feeling that 'Amsterdammers want their city to become safer'. That is exactly what it says on the card. In other words, a 'placebo' is being administered. In a friendly manner, they want citizens to get used to such practices, which are to become normal quick. A next step towards the stupidification of the citizen. This is how police states emerge. This kind of 'pointless operations' apparently also contribute to the work pressure, the police so like to talk about.

The local policeman distracted me by saying: 'There's a pretty blonde!' I said 'Yes, there are pretty blondes as well'. Of course, the message was: why don't you go consume like the rest of us.

I think the press is failing to do its duty, that is, alerting people to such issues. This kind of 'police state' practices should be banned as soon as possible! Not anything goes under the heading 'fighting insecurity'.

Theo Niekus is a photographer. Photo © Theo Niekus. See also: The police and the running coloured man


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