Policing Western Europe: Politics, Professionalism, and Public Order, 1850-1940

By Clive Emsley; Barbara Weinberger | Go to book overview

The Police of the Netherlands in and Between the Two World Wars

Cyrille Fijnault

In a well-known essay on the political development of the police in Europe, D. H. Bayley has argued that wars, revolutions, and external threats have exercised "surprisingly little" influence on this development. 1 However, my own comparative studies on the history of the police in Western Europe, have led me to the conclusion that the general and operational structure of the police will be changed, above all, during times of war, revolution, and power seizures. At such times, not only are existing central police agencies reinforced, or new national agencies created, or the authority of central government over local forces extended, but, more often than not, the bodies which are specifically charged with the maintenance of law and order, whether mobile or housed in barracks, as well as special intelligence services, are also reinforced and modernised. Similar trends can also be perceived in lengthier periods of time between wars, revolutions, and seizures of power, principally when public order is put under pressure from major conflicts in the prevailing domestic political order. The changes are usually less drastic under the latter circumstances. The overall impact of these developments ever since the French Revolution has been a steady and continual process of centralisation of the police as an instrument of repression. 2

It is in the light of this view of the evolution of the police in Western Europe that the history of the police in the Netherlands during and between the two World Wars will be discussed in this essay. I will start with the reorganisation at the end of World War I, when the political constellations throughout Europe were felt to be threatened, and were in some instances even disrupted, by revolutions--most notably, of course, in Russia and Germany. Secondly, I will review how in the early thirties the organisational structure of the Dutch police was once again changed significantly under the influence of the economic depression and its political consequences on the one hand, and the seizure of power by the Nazis in Germany on the other hand. Thirdly, the reorganisation of the Dutch police under the German occupation will be described.

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