maandag 13 juni 2016

The tragedy of a well ordered country

The murder of nurse Linda van der Giesen could possibly have been prevented.

Already for a while Van der Giesen was threatened by her ex-husband. She invoked the police several times. The police understood the danger, and could have come into action but did not because the police protocols required building a dossier first. Without that the police’s case could be rejected by the Prosecuter and the Court. So, in this case, the protocols prevented adequate and timely action.

The problem at hand here can be summarized as follows: sometimes our thoroughly regulated society prevents us to do the right thing in a given situation. For example, to say no to energy wasting nonsensical actions that the rules dictate; or to indeed  just perform that single sensible action, even though it is against the rules.

In our orderly country the creation of more rules is often the standard response to the finding of something wrong. Such is currently on the agenda after the discovery of fraud in the Amsterdam city council. In response, all sorts of rules and controls are now being built into the work of the council. While decades of experience with this kind of rules  indicate that it is a waste of money and energy. To the frustration of many employees.

What doés work, and what actually is most desirable, is that employees would act attentively and adequately, whether it be policeofficers or Amsterdam civil servants. But by enforced compliance with rules that effect is reached only marginally. For that something completely different is required than rules.

In the police organization there is a beginning of awareness to this. Leon Kuijs, chairman of the Police College, puts it as follows. “Police officers are now taught to take responsibility for what they have done, but there comes a time – and it will not take long – that we will be accountable for what we did nót do. As, for example: you could have known this or that, because you should know everything. Why did not you see it?”

Hiding behind rules will be a lot harder then, and that seems like a good thing.