Legislative proposal: more extensive screening of police officers
A different approach to the screening of police officers should help to better ensure the integrity of the police force. The core of the proposal is to assess the reliability of police officers during their work activities on a permanent rather than a one-off basis, e.g. during the selection process. The same applies for external parties who work for the police, e.g. ICT staff. Today, the relevant legislative proposal by Minister Grapperhaus (Justice and Security) was sent to various institutions – including the National Police Services Agency, the Public Prosecution Service and the Dutch Data Protection Authority – to request advice on the matter.
The police force currently enforces an active policy to ensure the integrity of its organisation. This policy contains both preventive and repressive measures. In terms of prevention, the police are working to create a safe work atmosphere in which employees are welcome to discuss dilemmas and address integrity risks in their daily work. Examples of repressive measures include investigations into signs of possible negligence of duty or suspected misconduct. The legislative proposal, which had already been announced previously, supplements these measures.
In order to examine police officers' reliability, it has become apparent that more data is needed. As an example, the standard background check will now also involve details of individuals in the immediate surroundings of (incoming) police officers or external parties. In any case, this includes parters, children aged 12 and over and live-in parents. Personal relations – particularly family members – can put pressure on a police officer, for example through blackmail or by asking for sensitive information.
Such an environmental screening is relevant if the work activities which the person in question will be carrying out constitute an increased risk for the integrity of the police. This concerns access to ICT systems and confidential information about the police force's business operations, as well as individuals with special positions, such as in the National Investigation Service. Not everyone in the police force qualifies for an environmental screening; this depends on the nature of their work.
The police leadership will also be able to keep a close eye on the reliability of police officers and external parties during their work activities. Some measures in the legislative proposal are necessary to be able to identify risks in time. The current screening policy is still inadequately equipped in this regard.
For example, changes in criminal records will be reviewed on an ongoing basis as part of the 'permanent screening' measure. As a result, the police leadership will be informed of new data in the justice system that relate to police officers quickly and can then take action, for instance by reassessing the integrity of the individual in question.
Apart from changes in criminal records, the police leadership must also be notified in a timely manner regarding other vulnerabilities that might affect reliability. The legislative proposal therefore contains an obligation to report, which mandates that police officers must report relevant changes in their personal circumstances, such as an arrest. With this information, the police leadership and the individual concerned can work together to prevent risks from occurring.
Finally, renewed background checks may be conducted periodically. All these measures also apply to external parties who have undergone a background check prior to beginning their work.