Critics have warned that despite being a target at some risk of attack, Amsterdam still does not have a dedicated well-trained and well-equipped counter-terrorism unit.
Insiders say the problem lies with Amsterdam coming late to the formation of police surveillance units. For some time other parts of the Netherlands have been setting up their counter-terror units, training elite officers and arming them with MP5 sub-machine guns, but authorities in Amsterdam resisted.
It is understood the city’s resistance to such units was because deploying officers armed with automatic weapons on Amsterdam streets does not fit with local political culture, reports NL Times. One source, speaking to Het Parool, explained:
“Sometimes that rebellion is good, but here it is counterproductive and has put the police at a disadvantage in a tense time.”
It was only after last November’s Paris attacks that the city really set about recruiting, selecting and training officers for the unit. To date only one of the unit’s planned six groups is ready to be deployed. Two are still in training, and three more will only begin that training after the summer.
The lack of dedicated resource meant that the armed officers deployed to protect European Union (EU) minister meetings at the Scheepvaartmuseum (pictured above) and Amsterdam Central Station during the country’s current EU Presidency, have had to be deployed from other regions.
Although Commissioner Jan Pronker — the man responsible for Amsterdam’s counter-terror unit — believes there is no issue, others disagree.
Mr. Pronker says the fact the National Police has other surveillance units that can be deployed from other regions when necessary is enough for now. However, local politician Jan Paternotte disagrees. He told Het Parool:
“It is still the European capitals and government centres under threat of terrorism. Not so much Zealand and Friesland.”
Amsterdam’s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, is now under pressure to host an emergency debate on his city’s under-powered counter-terrorism capabilities.