Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Written by Markus, November 2020
Yesterday, I and my family have put my aunty, who passed away and was cremated a year ago, in the family grave. After an emotional moment at the grave, part of the family decided to go to a nearby park and have some pastries and coffee. The weather was nice. Though close to winter, the sun was out and it was a comfortable 18 degrees. In the park, we found a large bench and table and we all sat down to chit chat and discuss our memories. Many of us haven’t seen each other in years, so there was a lot to talk about.
In the Netherlands, due to Corona, many restrictions apply. One of those restrictions is that it is not allowed to be in a public place with a group larger than two people unless you are from the same household. The intent of this legislation is mostly directed at those who would otherwise hang around in bars or nightclubs, but now can’t due to those places being closed.
Our group was much larger, about 20 people. So there we sat, at this big table, in an open park, surrounded by a few trees with orange leaves, talking, showing each other some pictures on our phones and talk some more, while enjoying the pastries and coffee set out at the large wooden table. Aside from us and a few people walking their dogs, the park was completely empty.
Clearly, we were breaking the Covid-19 rules.
Suddenly a police officer arrived and he started talking.
Before it got weird, let me quickly explain something about Dutch police. There are 2 kinds of police officers in the Netherlands. One kind is what I would call real police. These are trained officers, they carry a gun, they can arrest people, perform detective work, and much more. Their job is not only to enforce the law but also to mediate in conflicts and try to keep the peace.
And then there are what is I would label as “half-police”. They do not have any education. In fact, they could not qualify. They do not carry weapons and cannot arrest people on the street. Their sole purpose is to write fines. They are given a directive on what to focus on, nowadays this is Corona rules, they are given a quota of fines they need to write, hence that’s all they do. They write fines, no matter how fair it may be. In Singapore terms, I’d compare them to the environmental agency.
The police officer that showed up at our table was a real police officer. And this is what he said:
“I completely understand why you are here as a group. And I personally believe you are fully justified to do so. I will not give you a fine. But I do need to warn you”. And this is where it got weird.
He did not give us a warning that we are doing something that is not allowed. Instead, he warned as that there is a white van parked at the end of the road next to the park, and inside are two “half-police” looking at us. They will give you a fine. “So if you stand there, and you stand there, and so on. And if they come over and you tell them you are there because of a funeral, then they can’t give you a fine”.
So this police officer actually prevented the other half-police to be able to give us a fine. Purely based on the respect of the real police officer towards people coming from a funeral and his believe that, in this case, writing a fine would not be fair.
We followed the instructions of the real police officer and minutes later, we saw the van with the two half-police turn quickly and drive away, as if they were agitated.
I really loved how this policeman solved the situation. He quickly saw we were not the type of group that the rules are put in place for. We were not there to party, but to grieve instead. And to not worsen the situation, he decided to keep the half-police at bay in the only way he could. And that was to warn us for the presence of these quota driven half-police and advise us how we could continue but not get a fine.
My compliments to the real police of Amsterdam.