The Cabinet: more options for searches
In future, mayors will be able to designate an area for up to twelve hours as an area where the police is authorised to perform preventative searches for weapons, if such is necessary to enforce public order. The application of this measure has to concern an unexpected event, for example a serious fight at the exit of a club or bar, or an imminent confrontation between football hooligans in the vicinity of a train station. In such cases, the (assistant) public prosecutor will order the police to take action immediately. This is made clear in a legislative proposal from Minister Opstelten of Security and Justice to which the Council of Ministers has agreed.
The new powers are intended for short search actions. The mayor will not require the prior approval of the municipal council; he will inform the council as soon as possible after the action has ended. This procedure concerns one of the measures proposed to apply preventative searches more broadly, as was announced in the coalition agreement. As a result, mayors, the public prosecution service and the police will be able to act more decisively against aggression and nuisance, or will be able to prevent such disturbances.
Through the introduction of this measure, the Cabinet not only wants to increase safety on the streets, but also citizens' sense of security. Currently mayors are authorised by their municipal council to designate security risk areas in which the police is authorised to search anyone for weapons if the public prosecutor has issued an instruction to do so. In future, that instruction may also be issued verbally, with a written confirmation at a later stage. The instruction may also be given by an assistant public prosecutor if necessary. These changes will make it possible to organise search actions more quickly.
Another new aspect is that the police will at all times be able to search the clothes of arrested persons who are being removed to the police station, including bags and backpacks. Currently, this is only possible in the event of an imminent danger to the life or safety of the arrested person or that of the police officer. The legislative proposal does not introduce mandatory searches. A police officer will still make an assessment as to whether a search is necessary, in view of the situation and the arrested person. The regulation supports police officers in their daily duties.
The Cabinet has agreed to the legislative proposal being sent to the Council of State for its opinion. The text of the legislative proposal and the Council of State's opinion will be published upon submission to the Lower House of Parliament.