Police in the Dutch city of Rotterdam are planning to target young men wearing luxury clothing on the streets in a so-called effort to combat drug trafficking. But they’re not targeting luxury Prada coats or old ladies carrying Hermes bags, in a statement on the new policy, police name-checked “Big Rolexes” and “Gucci jackets” as key items they’re on the lookout for.
Jair Schalkwijk, a spokesman for a national anti-profiling organization Control Alt Delete, believes the policy is against a previous promise by police not to target people who look like “typical criminals”. It begs the questions, how exactly does someone look “poor” while wearing designer clothing? Will they only search people who look too young to afford designer clothes? There are some immaculately well-dressed children around. Or will they only enforce the regulation in poorer neighborhoods? It’s no surprise that many critics have raised the alarm by calling out it out as a thinly-veiled version of racial profiling.
“We know they have clothes that are too expensive to wear with the money they get,” said a spokesperson for the Rotterdam police, without specifying how police would actually, empirical know the financial situation of a suspect. At best, it’s police-sanctioned classism and at worst, it’s thinly-veiled racial profiling. Regardless, this new technique will have Dutch police going all hypebeast in the name of law and order. “We’re going to look at how they get those clothes, where they bought them, from where that money came from,” said the department’s spokesperson.
While it’s completely fine for the average cop to be unaware of, say, other luxury brands that rule the street, it’s an issue when this visual vocabulary can land you in jail or place one into suspicion. The department also failed to detail the criterion to make these wildly surface-level judgments in the field.
While the program doesn’t explicitly reference migrants, the country of 17 million is having an internal struggle to accept recent influx of human diversity. Far-right demagogues, like Geert Wilders, have stoked racial fears and resentment across the country, frequently doling out epithets like “scum” in reference to migrants. The racial fear extends into the upper reaches of the Dutch government, as well. Just last year, Prime Minister Mark Rutte told migrants to “be normal or be gone.” Or, for now, drop the Gucci.