On duty with the Dutch Special Escort Group

Published Mon, 02/05/2016 - 08:16

‘It gets me out of the rut, of my daily work as a CPO’, says motorcyclist Jeroen Koopman of the Noord-Holland Unit.

He was one of the officers escorting EU ministers and civil servants in Amsterdam. He and other colleagues made sure that traffic during the EU summit was steered in the right direction.                                                                                                             

A message is received in the command centre at the Amsterdam police headquarters: ‘Czech Republic, 2.30?’ ‘We' re on our way’ sounds the response. Everything goes according to the plan which is drawn up daily on the basis of data provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These include the venues of the meetings, the participating delegations, and airport information such as flight numbers and arrival and departure times.

"This is a hectic period. We must ensure that everyone is collected from, or taken to the airport on time," explains traffic commander Anita Weber.

The plan is a giant puzzle, the pieces of which are shuffled daily in response to updates which keep coming in all day. ‘We are getting the hang of it, but he puzzle remains complicated, particularly as some of the delegations come up with wishes they did not express earlier," Anita explains.

"Friday was a day of departure. But on Thursday, a certain minister indicated that he wanted to take a government plane, and we only had two hours to get him to Schiphol Airport on time. It takes some improvising."

During the Dutch presidency of the EU, colleagues of several units worked overtime on the roads, on the waterways and at the command centre.

Motorcyclists Jeroen Koopman and Charlotte Snel of the Noord-Holland Unit like their job. Charlotte said: ‘Escorting or showing the way, I like both. But I prefer escorting, as you try to get the VIPs to their destination without stopping. It is a challenge to do that in the best way possible. When showing the way you're more of a human sat nav."

In order to facilitate the motorcades and get the delegations to and from the venues at the Maritime museum, the hotels, and Schiphol Airport as efficiently and safely as possible, two 'green waves' have been created. Anita explains: "The command centre has control over the traffic lights along the routes, so that the motorcade does not have to halt. The green light is turned on for a few seconds, so that traffic in Amsterdam does not come to a complete standstill."

The command centre is not only in control of road traffic; it is also the nerve centre for what happens on the waterways. Marcel Nuij guides police vessels with diplomats on board through the canals. ‘Water transport has always been the most efficient way of getting people around. That's why we make use of water buses to take delegations from and to venues and hotels," he said.

Four months into the Dutch EU presidency, the police have carried out numerous rides already. Initially, there were some problems. Motorcyclist Jeroen: "Deployment was chaotic at first. I would come all the way to Amsterdam, only to discover that I was expected to carry out a single ride.  That's rather disappointing, particularly since I live far away from Amsterdam."

Unfortunately, not all issues have been resolved, according to Jeroen. "But practice makes perfect. Everything is more structured now. Fewer motorcyclists are being deployed, so that each motorcyclist has more rides. It keeps you sharp and you realise you are enjoying the best bits."

Charlotte adds: "You see places you don't normally visit, such as the briefing room at the Máxima barracks and the VIP room at Schiphol Airport."