Police powers

The police have powers that ordinary citizens do not have. For example, a police officer may ask to see a person’s identity documents while conducting drink-driving checks. Officers may also break certain traffic rules if they need to. The police are allowed to use force if necessary.

Independent or authorised use of powers

Police powers are governed by strict rules. A police officer is entitled to exercise some powers independently, for instance making an arrest or using a siren in traffic. More far-reaching police powers can only be used after authorisation has been obtained from the public prosecutor or an examining magistrate. These include phone tapping, surveillance and home searches.

Use of force

The police are one of the few authorities entitled to use force, although many rules and conditions apply. For instance, police officers can use force only as a last resort, and the force used must be no more than is necessary.

Exemption from traffic rules

The police are entitled to breach traffic rules if this is necessary for the performance of their duties, as they are exempted from most of the articles of the Traffic Rules and Signs Regulations 1990 (Reglement verkeersregels en verkeerstekens 1990). This means that officers are permitted to:

  • drive through red lights
  • use the hard shoulder
  • exceed the speed limit
  • drive on the wrong side of the road.

Investigative powers while in plain clothes

The police have investigative powers that they can use at any time of day or night. This means that police officers can exercise their police powers while off duty, even when in plain clothes (inot in uniform).

Police officers in plain clothes are obliged to provide proof of their identity without having to be asked. If someone wearing ordinary clothing says that they are a police officer, they must show you their police identification card without being asked. Police officers in uniform only have to show proof of identity if you ask them to.