Death of driver in roadblock fuels criticism of ‘disproportionate’ police methods

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Police tactics are in the spotlight after a driver was killed while sitting in a traffic jam set up to catch a fleeing petrol thief.

Experts and motoring organisations were sharply critical of the measure, which was deployed on the A2 on Saturday morning after a car with false numberplates drove off from a Shell garage at Vianen without paying.

When police forced traffic on the motorway to a standstill, the driver rammed three police cars and crashed into a stationary car at the back of the queue, killing a 35-year-old man from Maastricht at the wheel.

Guido van Woerkom, director of motoring organisation ANWB, said: “Somebody has died for a few litres of petrol. The means and the end are out of balance.

“Creating a bottleneck is dangerous. Nobody expects it at that time of the week. A petrol thief drove into it, but it could just as well have been another road user.”

Frank Scheffer, who was on the advisory group which investigated the road block tactic when it was first proposed, said police had ignored expert advice not to use it.

He told Algemeen Dagblad: “We advised against creating bottlenecks in the strongest terms because of the risks involved.

“Using a human shield is disproportionate. Putting other people’s lives in the balance can never be justified.”

The driver of the fleeing car, from Tilburg, is due to appear in court for causing the death of the victim. His 24-year-old passenger was released without charge.

In response to questions about how forced traffic jams are deployed, a spokesman for the Council of Chief Police Officers (Raad van Korpschefs) said decisions were made in a “split second” on a case by case basis.

Petrol theft has been decriminalised in the Netherlands since 2004 and garage owners usually recover their losses through civil procedures rather than involving the police.

But police decided to intervene on on Saturday morning because of the false registration plates, which are commonly used by the criminal fraternity.

Source: Trouw: File creëren is beproefd recept bij politie
Photo by Chriszwolle

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