Speech by Erik Akerboom, Commissioner of the Netherlands Police, at idec 2018

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Speech by Erik Akerboom, Commissioner of the Netherlands Police, at idec 2018

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Speech by Erik Akerboom, Commissioner of the Netherlands Police, at IDEC 2018.

April 2018 –The spoken word prevails
[the intro is a clip from Pulp Fiction in which the main characters (two contract killers) talk about their experiences in Amsterdam]
Ladies and gentlemen,

‘How many of you use drugs every now and then?’
‘How many of you have used cocaine?’
Two weeks ago I was invited to speak at ProDemos. You can see a photo of this event behind me.
ProDemos is the ‘House for Democracy and the Rule of Law’, directly opposite our Houses of Parliament in The Hague.
In the run-up to the local elections, they invited me to give a lecture about how crime undermines society.
And about how this invisible form of crime eats away at the foundations of our democracy.
Especially the foundations of local government.
I showed photos and quoted figures and statistics to inform the audience that evening about what we, as police, are doing to combat these undermining effects.
With the help of spreadsheets and photos showing a liquidation, I talked about activities that unfold in the grey areas of the law.
Activities that may at first glance seem not to have impact all that much on the lives of ordinary citizens, but that do in fact seriously damage mutual trust.
And in this way have a negative impact on the functioning of democracy.
I had a really great evening, I can tell you. And it was above all an extremely harmonious evening: everyone was unanimous that this was a huge problem that warranted close attention, and we should make every effort to stamp it out.
And it was precisely this unanimity that irritated me…
So that’s what prompted me to ask the audience:
‘How many of you use drugs from time to time?’
Uneasy shuffling in their chairs...
‘How many of you have used cocaine?’
Deathly silence.
Ok, so I didn’t expect that when the police commissioner asks this question the whole audience will rush to put up their hands.
Or that everyone would then react with stories about their most recent drug-taking experiences.
But those questions – and especially the discomfort in the room – did really help to bring home my point:
Which is that there is an intrinsic and strong link between drug use and the undermining effects of drug crime.
Because if we tolerate drug use, as I pointed out to my audience, we also tolerate the disastrous effects that crime has in undermining our society.
And I have noticed a worrying development here: romantic stories about drug use.
The phenomenon known as the ‘wellness paradox’, or ‘cocaine yogis’.
In the big cities highly educated young people in their twenties and thirties have an ultra-healthy lifestyle during the week.
Yoga, smoothies, and daily workouts at the gym…

A weird paradox if you take into account that the number of drugs related deaths doubled in recent years. From 123 in 2014 to 235 in 2016.

But then at the weekend they get hopelessly drunk, and take cocaine and various pills.
In this way drug use is becoming normalized.
And we have to get rid of this image.
Apart from the fact that it’s bad for your health, there is a hard and brutal world lurking behind that ‘innocent-seeming’ little line or pill.
So my appeal to that audience two weeks ago and to all of you today is: try to raise people’s awareness of the system they are continuing, the system they are sustaining.
A system in which abuse and extreme violence are the norm.

So I ask you all:

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