Police officers no longer automatic suspects after using force

Police officers will no longer automatically be labelled as suspects during inquiries into the use of force. A factual investigation, based on the assumption of lawful conduct, will be conducted instead. This is the core of a legislative proposal from State Secretary Van der Steur (Security and Justice) sent to various bodies such as the Council for the Judiciary and the Public Prosecution Service (OM) for advice.

The new measures arise from the use of force by investigating officers reform. This programme was set in motion to deal with bottlenecks in the procedures for investigating and settling incidents involving the use of force by police officers. The essential objective is to do justice to and take proper account of the special, often vulnerable, position of the police officer, according to Van der Steur. As well as being authorised to use force, police officers are in fact expected to take action in situations where others can stand down to avoid having to use violence to defend themselves. The proposal also guarantees that a proper, thorough investigation will always be carried out into the circumstances of the use of violence and whether or not the rules were complied with. 
 
The State Secretary is not seeking to place the investigating officer beyond the reach of criminal law. He is however of the opinion that the present general descriptions of the offence (physical abuse or manslaughter) are not sufficiently focused on situations where the police officer is acting by virtue of his task.
 
Currently when a police officer is prosecuted for breaching the rules governing the use of force, he is accused of the same offences as someone who is not authorised to use force. But the police officer is in a different situation because he acts by virtue of his task and authority. For that reason there will be a new description, tailored to the police officer, which makes breaching the rules governing the use of force a punishable offence. This description leaves more room for an appropriate response to the use of force by a police officer than simply prosecuting him for a general violent offence, as is currently the case. A breach of the rules governing the use of force will be punishable by a maximum prison sentence of three years, but in that case there must be fatal consequences. The rules governing the use of force set out how and when it is permissible to use force.

Ministry responsible