Janny Knol is “a police chief who can lead in a connecting, facilitating and innovative manner.” Henk van Essen, chief of police of the National Police, said this about his colleague when Knol became police chief of Eastern Netherlands in 2022. Van Essen probably did not foresee that Knol would succeed him as chief of the police a year later. From March 1 next year, 54-year-old Knol will become the first female chief of police of the Dutch police, the Council of Ministers decided on Friday.
The appointment is generally well received within the 65,000-employee police organization. The chairman of the largest police union NPB, Jan Struijs, says he has “every confidence” in Knol. “It is good for the diversity and image of the police that there will be a female chief of police.” The influential trade unionist will also be succeeded in two weeks by a woman: the former Member of Parliament for the SP, Nine Kooiman (42). The police leadership will have a female face in the coming years.
Knol’s appointment is for insiders not really a surprise. In the last few years she has made a meteoric career. Knol was district chief in Twente for six years. In Enschede she battled members of the Satudarah motorcycle gang who traded cocaine in the FC Twente supporters’ home. She also worked on combating fraud with the personal budget (pgb).
But all things considered, Knol’s appointment is a breakthrough. Since the establishment of the National Police in 2013 – which was created after a merger of 25 regional units and the national police service – police leadership has been in the hands of an old boys network. Gerard Bouman, Erik Akerboom and Henk van Essen preceded Knol – a generation younger.
More diverse, more digital
Internally, Knol has already announced that she will be more emphatic than, for example, her publicity-shy predecessor Van Essen as police boss. From now on, the Netherlands will know who that boss is. In the coming months, Knol will visit experts from within and outside the police to explore what the most important themes for the police should be. She has also said that she wants to focus mainly on tackling serious crime (‘undermining’) and on advancing digital working. She also wants to make the police more diverse.
Knol was born in Rotterdam in 1969. She moved to Zwolle with her Frisian parents when she was five, lives in Deventer and is the mother of two teenage daughters. She is in a relationship with a female non-uniformed colleague who does personnel policy at the police.
Knol, a police officer for over thirty years, is an accessible person. Colleagues describe her as “someone who cares about people.” She is also “very approachable,” says a managerial colleague.
During her police work, she has emphatically committed herself to better accessibility of the police as a counterweight to the closure of many police stations in recent years. Knol has started connecting with citizens via social media in Twente. Digital police officers were also introduced.
Knol wants to improve contact between the police and society. The police must be ‘of and for everyone’ and that is not always easy in a period of major social changes and polarization. “We live in a time when society is fermenting and bubbling, and frustration and powerlessness lead to outbreaks of violence. The contrasts have never been so great,” she said in March 2022 at her installation in the East of the Netherlands.
According to Knol, the police must also find a better answer to the new forms of crime that arise due to advancing digitalization. According to her, scams via WhatsApp are the new bicycle theft and are common. Matters such as holding computers hostage for ransom and fraud by criminals posing as bank employees are crimes that require a different approach. “Youth are more likely to be found on the digital highway than on the paved road. And we are only minimally present and accessible on that digital highway.”
Knol’s appointment was reportedly mainly an idea from the top of the Ministry of Justice and Security. Irritation increased in the department about persistent problems with the National Police. For example, there were three suicides at the National Unit – which is now being renovated – and racist incidents occurred repeatedly.
An event in this area that attracted a lot of attention this year took place within the Knol unit. In March, a video appeared on Twitter showing six police officers from the eastern Netherlands driving through Paris on a bus and shouting racist remarks. shouting about the people of foreign descent they see. Knol immediately suspended the officers. And in July, Knol announced that she was dismissing an officer. And one was given a conditional discharge.
While the Rotterdam and The Hague units have often covered racist incidents in recent years with the cloak of collegial love, Knol announced in Twente that action is required. “We have an additional responsibility. After all, we are the police, in a diverse society.”
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