Amsterdam , Netherlands

Amsterdam To Toronto: Top Points for Police

Netherlands Police Agency

April 19, 2011

Senior police officers develop intercultural competencies through peer-to-peer city learning exchange

Last fall, Commissioner of Police, Patrick Voss, of the Netherlands Police Agency left his home in Utrecht, The Netherlands to spend two months in Canada. His purpose was to study how the Toronto Police Services handled community outreach programs and diversity management within the force itself.

Like other countries in Europe, the Netherlands has an increasing immigrant population with people from almost 140 countries. Improving how to work with diverse communities has become a point of concern for the country’s police forces.

In 2008, a national program called Politietop divers, naar een duurzaam perspectief (Diversity in Police Leadership: Towards a Sustainable Perspective) was created to focus on the large numbers of women and ethnic minorities joining and leaving the force.Its mandate came from the Board of Regional Police Force Managers and the Board of Chief Commissioners.

To help senior officers ‘develop intercultural competencies’, Politietop divers worked with the Institute for Integration and Social Efficacy of the University of Groningen to create a work-study immersion program called Top-POINT (Police Leadership International).

But its long-term agenda is to understand diversity in a larger context.

Understanding Diversity

For Comm. Voss, who kept a blog in Dutch of his time in Toronto (you can read it via Google Translator here), the trip was a whirlwind of new experiences. In Toronto, he was assigned to Superintendent Sam Fernandes, whom he called “Mr. Diversity.” Each day was different. Activities ranged from learning about Aboriginal peacekeeping to visiting high school students in at-risk neighbourhoods to attending an official dinner with members of the local Muslim community.

What was it that impressed Comm. Voss? (who is also the Acting Head of the National Operational Coordination Centre in the Netherlands National Police Agency). “The positive, pro-active attitude [within Toronto Police Services] and the way they respect each other’s culture and the appreciation of ‘difference,” he says. “It is about leadership with a strong vision in combination with responsibility given to all levels of the police service.”


What was important for Voss was the impact of the Toronto experience on his work – from learning how to be more open-minded to building bridges with other organizations.

“Today, I have a stronger focus on using and respecting the differences, giving them value and encouraging the use of differences,” he says.

More important are the new ideas Comm. Voss now seeks to introduce as part of the program’s mandate to improve diversity policy. This includes a community outreach program and multicultural training for police officers that will foster a more open attitude amongst police officers towards citizens.

The Top-POINT program plans to send other senior Dutch police officers abroad to visit and learn from a wide variety of cities, including Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Capetown, South Africa.

Back in Toronto, the Police Services is now busy with its own plans to send one of its own officers to the Netherlands on a reciprocal work-study placement. Good Ideas on the move!

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