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Research project

Policing Studies

The research group Intelligence and Security has been augmented with a team Policing Studies as part of the collaboration agreement with the Dutch National Police. This team is tasked with creating a more academic foundation for the current knowledge surrounding policing studies in the Netherlands, as well as broadening and enriching that information. Academic knowledge will need to be gathered and subsequently shared with the academic world and the professionals working in the field. As a result, there is a need for a research programme, an educational programme and outreach activities.

Joery Matthys

Why was it necessary to create a team Policing Studies?

The police intervenes when called for by circumstances, civilians or authorities. She can be called upon at every hour of the day and every day of the week to enforce the rule of law. The police are operating in a society that is continuously becoming more and more complex. As a result, the police force finds itself in need of a more academic perspective on a number of fundamental topics related to their operations. In effect, there is a demand for Policing Studies. Theoretical knowledge and academic research to analyse the way the police is organised and functioning. In other words: the governance, within their broad social and political context. While also analysing the decision-making of the individual police officer within the context of this broader governance. As well as the effects of the police actions. However, this academic research will also need to have a practical relevance. Policing studies is closely related to the research interests of the Dutch Police Academy. However, it has its own conceptual focus providing output that is relevant to both academics as well as practitioners.

The field Policing Studies in the Netherlands is currently very limited in capacity: there are only a limited number of chairs and the most well-known professors have retired. Not only are there a limited number of chairs, the discipline is also rather fragmented. There is a research interest from various academic disciplines such as criminology, public administration, security studies but the accumulated knowledge is not commonly shared, even though there is a need for more research and more experts to come up with solutions for urgent policy issues as well as more general questions from the field, not only from within the police force but also from within society, on a policy level and from politicians. Academic input based on research is also currently missing from the social debate on issues pertaining to the police.

This led to various calls from the field, such as academics, police experts, the Dutch National Police, and the Dutch Police Academy and from within the Ministry of Justice and Security to invest in Policing Studies. The most illustrious call came from Peter Klerks, advisor to Dutch Board of Procurators General and former lector at the Police Academy, in a column titled ‘het gedroomde instituut’ (the dreamed-of institute), which was published in the Dutch police journal ‘Tijdschrift voor de Politie’, in which he wondered what happened to all the prominent professors in the field of policing studies. ‘Isn’t it time for an academic, multidisciplinary and independent police institute, where experts are able to establish a connection between practitioners, policy and the academic world?’ He believed that Leiden University’s Campus The Hague would be the perfect choice.

This need resulted in a collaboration between the Dutch National Police and Leiden University [in Dutch]. The fact that the Faculty is located in The Hague played an important role. The proximity of the most important stakeholders allows for intensive collaboration with these parties, not only in the research field, but also in the field of education and training.

1. Governance of the police/law enforcement

The police in the Netherlands is based on area-based policing. It means that an established group of police officials executes police work in an area of limited geographical scope. These are the base teams in which the ‘wijkagent’, the neighbourhood police officer, fulfils a key role. For many civilians, these officers are the people representing the police force. There are also scientific police models and methods that function both independently as well as in conjunction with area-based policing. Together, they form the focus of the first area of interest. From a governance perspective: the function of the police is constantly diversifying and this results in a multitude of security actors, in which the police continues to play an important role. This led to, for instance, public/private collaborations. It is on the level of the base teams that these trends have an important effect.

2. International and transnational police work

The evolution of the governance aspect of the police in the Netherlands is also visible on a supranational level. Numerous national and international actors, both public and private, play both collaborative as well as competitive roles, each grounded in their own philosophies and methods of operation. A number of European and international security actors highlighting this aspect can be found in The Hague.
Transnational police work is also related to this theme. It refers to both policing in border regions, where specific issues are at play, as well as borderless policing. For instance, cyber security and more specifically the fight against cyber criminality.

3. Socially relevant security issues - first issue: undermining

The final area of interest allows for more freedom of choice in which, depending on their social relevance, several security topics can be addressed. For instance, undermining. Leiden University and the Dutch Police Academy have already created a chair and developed a research strategy to address this specific socially relevant theme. The last couple of years, the problem of ‘undermining’ has become more relevant in the Netherlands and has become firmly established on the agendas of organisations combatting criminality, such as the police and the Dutch Public Prosecution Service as well as on the agendas of government institutions on both a national and local level. The complexity of the phenomenon and its effects on society and government require scientific explanations and research based input in order to create a strategy for undermining. The chair aims to provide a contribution by means of, for instance, its research and by organising seminars. The professor by special appointment of Undermining Studies is part of the Policing Studies team. 

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board for the Policing Studies team consists of national and international experts within the field of Policing Studies. The number of participants may vary but it is of vital importance that both academic experts as well as practitioners are represented in the Advisory Board. The academic experts are, whenever possible, recruited from outside the Institute of Security and Global Affairs in which Policing Studies is embedded.

Membership of the Advisory Board is unremunerated. Members are free to withdraw their membership at any given time. Ideally, members will commit to serving on the board for the duration of the collaboration agreement between Leiden University and the Dutch National Police: from 1 January 20221 until 31 December 2025. Members can also choose to remain on as board members after this period, as it is the intention of the Policing Studies team to continue independently after the collaboration has ended. New members will be admitted after consultation with the existing members of the board. The Advisory Board is in charge of its own succession.

The board convenes twice per year. The meetings are scheduled in accordance with the academic year: once at the beginning, in September, and once at the end May/June. The executive team is also able to approach individual members for advice in an ad-hoc basis, should there be an urgent need for input. However, they must have a valid reason to do so.

The Advisory Board functions in an advisory capacity regarding the broad substantive outlines and direction implemented by the Policing Studies team. The board advises on existing opportunities within the field of Policing Studies, provides feedback on ideas and suggestions of the Policing Studies team, and are on hand to provide other relevant constructive criticism. The board can only address substantive issues and does not have a say in financial issues nor can they reflect on individual team members. Apart from their membership on the Advisory Board, individual members are also committed to promoting the activities of the Policing Studies team, such as conferences, within their own networks and to introducing members of the team to relevant persons of interests within their network. However, the decision to do so is at the discretion of the members of the Advisory Board.

The current members of the Advisory Board, in alphabetical order:

  • Marleen Easton – Professor Governing and Policing Security, Ghent University
  • Erwin Muller – Professor Security and Law, Leiden University
  • Martin Sitalsing – Portfolio holder for “A Police for Everybody”, Dutch National Police

Joery Matthys, Assistant Professor at Leiden University is the Secretary of the Advisory Board. The Secretary organises the meetings, is in charge of the agenda and minutes, and the feedback of the board to the team. The minutes are for internal use only.

Executive Team

The executive team of the Policing Studies convenes on a monthly basis and is tasked with both the operational management of the team as well as liaising with the Dutch National Police, in accordance with the collaboration agreement. Membership of the executive team is seen as part of the professional activities of its members. The executive team consists of members from the Dutch National Police and members of the Policing Studies team.

The current members of the executive team, in alphabetical order:

  • Edwin Bakker - Professor Terrorism Studies, Leiden University
  • Barbara Caem – Head of the Science Cluster at Portfolio Area-based Policing, Dutch National Police
  • Saniye Çelik, Professor Diversity, University of Applied Sciences Leiden
  • Joery Matthys, Assistant Professor, Leiden University
  • Hans de Vries, Portfolio holder Area-based Policing (interim), Dutch National Police

Ingrid van der Velden is the Secretary of the executive team.

The Policing Studies team has reached out to a number of practitioners and academic experts and invited them to become associated fellows for the upcoming period. Fellows contribute to promoting the team’s activities by opening their network, are invited to give guest lectures, publish articles in collaboration with the research team, and assist with the outreach and valorisation of the research. In exchange they well be regarded as preferential partners for research calls and will be given access to university facilities such as the library and access to seminars, etc.

The current Fellows of the Policing Studies team:

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