Dutch Language Blog

The Dutch Version of the TV Show Cops Posted by on Apr 3, 2019 in Culture

Have you seen the American show Cops? The show with one police chase on the highway with the song “Bad Boys” in the background. “Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do, what you gonna do when they come for you?” I recently discovered a Dutch TV show that (sort of) resembles the American Cops show and I highly recommend it. It is called De Handhavers.

Photo taken by Matthew Kenwrick found on Flickr.com with license CC BY-ND 2.0

Who are the handhavers?

The handhavers are a sort of municipal security force whose task is to keep order. According to the Dutch police website, the difference between handhavers and politie is the following:

De politie zorgt ervoor, als uitvoerende instantie, dat het recht in Nederland wordt nageleefd; ze handhaaft de rechtsorde. Dit gebeurt in opdracht van de overheid.

If you have been to Amsterdam, you have probably run into the handhavers, particularly at the central station. They are the ones called when a passenger did not pay for public transport, when people are sleeping in benches, and when there is someone causing commotion.

Handhavers are part of the gemeente or the city government and their tasks vary per city. In big cities such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, their tasks might involve dealing with dakloos or homeless people sleeping on the streets, troublesome tourists, and general order. In the south of the Netherlands, they are very much present during carnaval making sure things are in order. Handhavers are also the first to respond to complaints for say, a neighbour that has a lot of trash in their back yard (yes, you can complain about that), or people who have furniture outside their property. They even check streets for improperly disposed of trash as well as cars that have been wrongly parked.

Police vs Handhavers

While handhavers might not deal with the most pressing issues regarding safety, their role is very much connected to the community. Many times, they are the first on scene to determine what the course of action is. Their role in cities is to ensure that things run smoothly, people don’t use the streets as trashcans, and everyone is just orderly leaving the police to take care of criminal activity. The police website expands on the difference with the following statement:

De politie treedt op tegen overtredingen van de wet. Denk bijvoorbeeld aan de wetten op het gebied van openbare orde, milieu en verkeer. Handhaven is noodzakelijk, omdat chaos ontstaat wanneer iedereen zomaar zijn gang zou kunnen gaan.

In other words, handhavers are there to deal with situations that might just need some mediation and leadership.

The TV show

The TV show De Handhavers airs every sunday evening on channel SBS 6. The reason why I find this show interesting is the type of “disorder” that is portrayed there. Having grown up in the States with the commercials of the show Cops constantly on TV, De Handhavers are a nice relief of the type of crimes that are televised. I am in no way saying “harder” crimes don’t exist; just that they don’t get televised.

The TV show also portrays other safety and order branches such as the dierenpolitie, boswachter and the police. Below is a clip I found that gives a good idea of what the show is about.


Do you have a similar police/security force in your country? Do they also have a television show?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!