Grapperhaus announces urgent measures and an in-depth investigation into Working Under Cover in the police force
Today, Minister Grapperhaus of Justice and Security submitted the public conclusions of the Brouwer Committee report to the House of Representatives. The committee has been investigating the operating procedure of the Working Under Cover (WOD) team of the Central Unit of the National Police Force during the past few months. The committee specifically investigated the suicide of one of the officers on the WOD team. As a result of the report, the minister has taken immediate measures to better ensure the protection and safety of officers on the WOD team. The chief of police has stated that he will do the same and embraces the conclusions and recommendations in the report. The minister also announced an in-depth follow-up investigation aimed at creating an appropriate system of safeguards for the future operating procedure for Working under Cover. The committee that will undertake this task will also ensure that the system is implemented in practice.
Lack of professionalism, control and supervision
The report reveals an abysmal lack of professionalism, reporting, control and supervision. In addition, the committee has found that there is a relationship between the infiltrator's death and his work. The committee calls this a harsh but inevitable conclusion.
“Firstly, I wish to express my sincere condolences to the officer's next of kin and colleagues. I wish them strength in coping with this devastating loss. The findings and conclusions of the committee's investigation are disconcerting. This must also come as a tremendous shock to the next of kin.”
The Brouwer Committee has found that the professionalism of the organisation as a whole leaves far too much to be desired. Inadequate attention is paid to the risks of undercover work and to the mental well-being of officers. In addition, the committee has concluded that the current system within and outside the WOD team does not provide sufficient safeguards for the well-being of infiltrators. The committee has stated that the WOD team has achieved many successes, but that these depend on the individual officers’ personal qualities and do not emanate from the professionalism of the entire organisation. The police officers who do this difficult and important work with great dedication deserve better.
“It is clear from the report that several warnings and signs that the WOD officer was not coping mentally failed to be adequately addressed and as a result no action or insufficient action was taken. The chief of police and I find this unacceptable and it must never happen again. We are therefore taking immediate measures to better protect the safety and well-being of the officers who do this difficult work,” the minister said. Three million euros have been made available for these measures.
Greater attention needs to be paid immediately to the mental well-being of the officers on the WOD team. Staff care will therefore be strengthened, for example, with psychologists and other experts who will provide solicited and unsolicited advice on the mental well-being of officers. The size of the teams will also be reduced. Pending the adoption of a new operating procedure, strategic managers will from now on always review guiding decisions in ongoing operations. The national WOD public prosecutors will also be involved in this process.
The organisational, legal and ethical conditions of all ongoing undercover operations will be re-reviewed to determine whether these operations can go ahead in a responsible manner.
To order to properly document the management and supervision of infiltrators, for instance, protocols will be drawn up for the operating procedure of the WOD team. Professional standards and responsibilities will therefore be clearly documented. External expertise will also be used for this purpose. Officers should always be able to approach someone to ventilate their concerns, complaints and suspicions of abuse. This will be implemented, taking into consideration the secrecy and protection required for undercover work.
The Brouwer Committee has demonstrated that the current system within and outside the WOD does not contain adequate safeguards. An in-depth investigation is required in order to properly organise the further strengthening of the legal, organisational and ethical safeguards. Therefore the intention now is to appoint a new investigation committee to follow up thoroughly on this investigation. The new committee will focus on a number of matters: examining which safeguards are necessary for Working Under Cover, issuing advice on the future structure of the operating procedure for Working Under Cover and the appropriate safeguards. This includes the added value of broader and continuous assessment by the Central Assessment Committee (CTC). In addition, the committee will monitor whether the recommendations of the Brouwer Committee are being implemented with sufficient efficacy.
“I have asked former justice minister Winnie Sorgdrager to chair this important committee. I have agreed with her that she will start very shortly. I have great confidence in her as the intended chair and in conducting this follow-up investigation. This investigation is required because Working under Cover is extremely important in the fight against organised crime and in tackling subversion. Given the importance, the follow-up committee will investigate how we should effectively organise Working Under Cover with all the accompanying safeguards.”