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Mayors’ Emergency Measures Often Faulty

15 December 2016
Dutch Pegida demonstration (photo Peter Braakmann, Nationale Beeldbank)

Almost every week, an emergency measure is in force somewhere in the Netherlands. This is a temporary measure taken by the Mayor to prevent or contain an emergency situation. Hundreds of police officers are involved annually in enforcing emergency orders, i.e. concrete instructions for civilians, and emergency ordinances, general prohibitions and requirements. Emergency measures range from simple injunctions to leave or bypass an area to full-scale evacuation orders. This study by the Centre for Public Order and Safety (COOV) at the Faculty of Law of the University of Groningen shows that the measures taken are often against the law.

Praxis Struggles with Emergency Measures

Mayors are having trouble issuing legally tenable emergency measures. Some measures even confer extra powers to the police, which is against the law. Earlier this year, for example, an emergency ordinance was issued in Vlaardingen that allowed the police to perform preventative body searches in order to trace a pyromaniac. Moreover, emergency measures sometimes constitute an unlawful breach of fundamental rights. Recently, for example, emergency orders were issued during the somewhat controversial entry parade of Saint Nicholas which curtailed the right to demonstrate. The emergency measures are also often formulated in a manner that makes them difficult for the police to enforce.

Best practices for different types of situations

This study, performed on behalf of the Police and Academia (Politie en Wetenschap) research programme, analysed over 250 emergency ordinances and emergency orders as to their lawfulness, legal tenability, and enforceability, using input from experts from practice. This analysis has led to the drafting of best practices for different types of emergency situations.

Research leader Adriaan Wierenga : ‘This research can help the responsible authorities in taking suitable emergency measures to prevent or end disasters or serious disorder. As such, it is of great value to mayors, lawyers of municipalities and safety regions, senior police officials and others involved in handling emergency situations.’

More information

  • About the research(ers): Adriaan Wierenga
  • A.J. Wierenga, C. Post & J. Koornstra, Naar handhaafbare noodbevelen en noodverordeningen. Een analyse van het gemeentelijke noodrecht (Politiekunde 84, Politie en Wetenschap Apeldoorn), Amsterdam: Reed Business 2016.
  • The report is available as a free PDF download or as an E-book via
Last modified:18 March 2022 2.55 p.m.
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