No violence, but a conversation

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Netherlands – The use of police negotiators has increased significantly in recent years. This happened 1,200 times in 2023, compared to 600 times in 2017. The increase is mainly caused by incidents involving people with confused behavior who threaten to harm themselves or others. This is worrying, says Martin Sitalsing, national portfolio holder for Care and Safety. ‘It is part of our work, but the commitment to people with confused behavior is placing an increasing demand on capacity.’

Aad Egberts has been a police negotiator since 2006. Originally, police negotiators were mainly deployed in hostage situations, “but in the last five years, people with confused behavior have become our core business,” he says. ‘Police negotiators are called upon several times a day.’

Lots of pressure

In 2023, colleagues registered a record number of E33 reports: 141,724. In addition, the police registered around 6,000 suicide attempts. In many hundreds of cases, the intervention of a police negotiator was necessary to get the situation under control.

Specialists from the Special Interventions Service are also increasingly deployed to end dangerous situations involving confused people. This happened 83 times in 2020, last year the number of bets rose to 199.


Egberts advocates that every officer be trained in de-escalating communication. “As first responders, they should be the first to make contact with a person in crisis. In recent years, IBT has mainly trained and tested the use of force. But de-escalating communication is also part of every police officer’s toolbox. You can prevent escalation by listening carefully and making real contact.’

Not surprising

‘It is not surprising that the deployment of police negotiators and colleagues from the DSI is increasing. The number of incidents involving confused people has also increased significantly in recent years,” says Martin Sitalsing, portfolio holder for Care and Safety. ‘The figures make it clear that not only regular police officers are confronted with this problem, but also specialist parts of the police.’

Sitalsing speaks – not for the first time – of a worrying development. ‘As police we spend a lot of time on people with confused behavior. It is part of our work, but the commitment to people with confused behavior places an increasing demand on capacity. It is essential that structural solutions are found to prevent incidents.’ He means more housing, admission places, secure beds, financing and an approach to the waiting lists. ‘Once we have ended a dangerous situation, it is up to others to immediately start removing the causes of the behavior to prevent recurrence.’

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