The Netherlands has always prided itself on its tolerance. But a country whose unofficial national motto is doe even normaal, meaning “be normal”, may have been until recently too tolerant.
The national motto presupposes that there are social codes people must adhere to in order to fit into Dutch culture, but there is clearly a limit to tolerance.
According to a study carried out by the Politie en Wetenschap [Police and science] research program in 2016, 70 percent of police checks result from directly witnessing a crime being committed. That means that the remaining 30 percent is based on suspicious or unusual behaviour, and flashy expensive clothing in a poor neigbourhood obviously sends the wrong signal.
The measure is likely to heighten existing tensions between wealthy drug dealers and the police.
Expensive clothing that displays a certain aesthetic such as bling-bling and fur coats, is directly associated with criminality, because high-end clothing in The Netherlands is generally not overtly flashy. The new measure is seen as a way of indirectly influencing ethnic minority groups to assimilate, to dress and behave a certain way.
Frank Paauw, the police chief in Rotterdam, stated that: “We are talking about young men who consider themselves to be untouchable… We are going to undress them on the street.”
The justification for this new measure comes from a desire to implement more “proactive” policing, according to Dutch media.