I have just had the pleasure of talking with Emile, a police man from Utrecht. His views on life in Utrecht are important and also reassuring as he tells us about his work.
Emile Vermeulen, is aged 36, and has over 18 years of service in the police in the inner city of Utrecht. He has worked his whole time here and never changed the district. He thinks it is still the best place to work!
“The inner city of Utrecht is always busy, because of its nightlife economy, the demonstrations, students, big events and all the rest.”
Why did you join the police?
“I always wanted to be on the other side of the police “do not cross” line.”
“I was always curious. Now I am able to cross the line legally.”
“Even today, after 18 years I still think that by doing my job, I’m able to help people, making Utrecht a safer place to live in.”
I asked about his education. How did he become a police officer?
He did his time at college and then after that he went to police college for 1.5 years. Nowadays that can be for as long as 4 years. He acknowledged that:
“Back at the days I was lucky to learn the job in the field, instead of by the book!”
What is your current role in Utrecht?
“I am responsible for controlling all the people that drink their beers during the nightlife economy!
Every weekend thousands of students and other people want to have a good night in the inner city of Utrecht. We have a special team that works during the nightlife economy to make sure that they can do this safely and securely.
It’s called the UITTEAM and their job is to prevent fights and rowdiness. The team is operational every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”
Below we can see them in action:
“I am the coordinator of the team and responsible so that there are enough colleagues available every weekend.”
What is the best part of the job?
“The best part is that every day is a different day. You don’t know what will happen at any time. I can be answering questions, and a few minutes later I might end up in a big incident.
The way the Dutch Police keep contact with all the people that live in Utrecht, is a great way of working.
If the people react friendly towards us, we will do the same. 98% of our contacts are friendly, so we have a positive way of communicating!!
But when we are dealing with an incident, the atmosphere changes. You have also to deal with that.”
And the worst?
Emile feels that the worst part is, that though he made the choice to work for the Police his family didn’t and that it can affect them in a bad way. For example:
“A few weeks ago, someone tried to run me over with his car. Just a few inches, and we would have a big problem. I already had the thought that if the driver had hit me, I don’t know if I would have survived it.”
But the worst part of that incident was to go to home afterwards, and try to explain to his family what had happened.
“That hurts sometimes.”
Has policing changed since you started?
Nowadays Emile feels that the public have far more respect for the work they do on the streets. The recent rise in terror attacks might have changed the mood and made people more appreciative of their work.
“We try to keep the people safe. More and more the respect for that grows.”
He feels this good relationship is built on hard work and also on different methods of communicating. He thinks that the way they use social media is important, linking the public into the police way of thinking.
“We try to give an insightful view, to show how we work. By showing this, people see that writing a parking ticket is not the only thing we do.”
It is a breath of fresh air to see someone who wants to explain the reasons behind making a decision, rather than just ignoring requests for explanation that alienates people. I regularly read Emiles Twitter feed and after translation it does give an interesting view on his work.
“More than ever we listen to the people about what their needs are, so that the police deal with problems that really matters for the citizens of Utrecht.”
I read that they are closing prisons in the Netherlands due to lack of prisoners and so wondered if it meant that there is very little crime. Emile says that crime stats are decreasing,
“but that doesn’t mean there is less crime on the streets. That is the main reason we still have to be visible for everyone.
Also, in Utrecht we are dealing with cut backs. Also, for us it’s hard to get the numbers of police on the streets, that we wanted to have.
On the other hand, more and more of the time we are planning for policeman to be outside at the right times. You will see more police on duty on a Saturday night compared to a Monday morning.”
Though not originally from Utrecht, Emile feels that because of his 18 years of duty in the city, that it is like his hometown! He doesn’t live in the city as he didn’t think that it was a good idea to work where you live as then he would always feel responsible as it would feel that he would always have to work but Utrecht is his favourite place to be, though his bed is somewhere else!
What is your favourite place in Utrecht?
“My favourite place is the Dom Garden. It is a beautiful garden, right in the heart of the city. The city is always busy, but when you are in the garden, all the rush disappears.
Tourists from all over the world travel to the garden to take pictures. The best part of that is, that for us it’s just a few minutes away!”
Does Utrecht inspire you?
“In my point of view the big city of Utrecht is good in being small. One day thousands of people move to Utrecht for a big event like the Tour the France. The next day, the inner city of Utrecht is totally quiet. The city stays itself. We are not like Amsterdam. Let’s keep it that way!
Utrecht is a beautiful place to stay. It’s still stays itself compared to all the other big cities in our country.”
Then ever the policeman Emile ends:
“Come and visit us, then we will keep you safe!”