Dutch Police to Confiscate Clothes from People Who Look Too Poor to Wear Them

(Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)
This policy is an affront to people's very humanity.

Police in Rotterdam, a city in the Netherlands, have announced that they are going to “undress” young people who are wearing clothes that look too expensive for them to be wearing.

Yes — seriously. According to an article in the Independent, if you look too poor for the clothes that you’re wearing, then police will be able to confiscate them — unless you’re able to somehow prove that you actually bought them.

(Note: It’s not clear what kind of “proof” would be necessary. Are people in Rotterdam going to have to make sure they have the receipt and the credit card they used to purchase an expensive item on them anytime that they’re wearing it?)

“They are often young guests who consider themselves untouchable,” Rotterdam police chief Frank Paauw told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. “We’re going to undress them on the street.”

Paauw continued:

We regularly take a Rolex from a suspect. Clothes rarely. And that is especially a status symbol for young people. Some young people now walk with jackets of €1800. They do not have any income, so the question is how they get there.

According to the Independent, the idea here is to discourage young people from stealing things because the new policy sends the message that they will not be able to keep their ill-gotten goods anyway.

Unsurprisingly, some of the citizens of Rotterdam aren’t exactly happy with the new policy. For example, the Independent reports that many consider it to be a “slippery slope” towards racial profiling.

“We realised that [police] do not want to create the appearance that there is ethnic profiling but the chances of this happening are very large,” city ombudsman Anne Mieke Zwaneveld told AD.

I don’t think this policy is a problem because it’s a ‘slippery slope’; I think it’s a problem because it’s completely insane.

Personally, I don’t think this policy is a problem because it’s a “slippery slope”; I think it’s a problem because it’s completely insane. I have some nice clothes, and I also have some days where I don’t put on makeup or wash my hair. Some mornings, I’ll go out with my hair looking like a bird’s nest, with day-old eye makeup smeared under my eyes, and wearing penguin pajama pants to go get a bagel sandwich. If I’m in Rotterdam, and happen to be carrying a nice purse, are the cops going to be able to take it from me just because I went out looking like I couldn’t possibly be employable? (I do sometimes look like I couldn’t possibly be employable.)

The risks of racial profiling when it comes to something like this are obviously high, but even aside from that, this policy in itself is an affront to people’s very humanity. People have the basic human right to walk down the street wearing clothes with the expectation that those clothes won’t randomly be removed from their bodies by a cop. It really is as simple as that.


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— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.


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