Transgressive behavior decreasing at Dutch police; Still above average

The number of police officers who experienced transgressive behavior in the police teams decreased by up to 6 percent in the past years. But the percentages are still higher than the national averages among employees, the police said in a statement. 

A total of 32,358 police officers completed the 2020/2021 employee survey. Of them, 6,711 reported experiencing transgressive behavior. Twelve percent reported bullying, 12 percent harassment, 6 percent discrimination, 4 percent unwanted sexual advances, and 0.3 percent physical violence. These percentages are 6 to 2 percent lower than the previous employee survey in 2016/2018.

“It is in itself good that colleagues experience less transgressive behavior,” said Deputy Police Chief Liesbeth Huyzer. “But in absolute numbers, it concerns many colleagues who are affected by this. Every case is one too many.”

Transgressive behavior happens in almost every police team, the survey showed. The researchers found no indication that the transgressive behavior occurs continuously or frequently. But it remains necessary to tackle the problem, Huyzer said. 

She stressed that police work increases the risk of this type of behavior, as cops are under more mental pressure than the national average. Police work is demanding, with a strong trust factor. “As a result, a family culture has developed within the police in which it is sometimes difficult to hold each other accountable for undesirable behavior.”

The police are therefore putting extra effort into making transgressive behavior a topic that can be discussed between colleagues and with superiors. All police teams have to draw up a plan stating what they’re doing to combat transgressive behavior. The police are also working on increasing diversity. “It is well known that transgressive behavior occurs more quickly in monocultures,” the police said. 

“Border-crossing behavior occurs within all organizations,” Huyzer said. “But it is precisely with the police that it immediately affects our legitimacy. It is our job to act against transgressive behavior. And at the same time, we are also just people. Where people come together, you unfortunately also see undesirable behavior like bullying, discrimination, and harassment, whether sexual or not. You don’t what that, so you have to do your utmost to prevent it.”

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