THE TIME GERMAN POLICE PULLED US OVER AT THE DUTCH/GERMAN BORDER (AMERICAN’S PERSPECTIVE)
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As a teenager (16 years old) I was visiting my girlfriend in the neighboring town and missed the last bus home around midnight. So I walked towards home on the cycle path along the main road and tried to hitchhike. A police vehicle approached, pulled up next to me and asked me if I had ID with me and where I was going. When I said I want to go home, one of the police officers said I was under temporary arrest. They drove me home where the arrest was then lifted. That saved me a long walk and corresponded to the motto of the German police: Your friend and helper.
I've been living in Germany for 7 years now, and have been "pulled over" once. I was in Amsterdam on a business trip, at lunch time I parked my car at one of the parking garages in the city center and an hour later I found out the rear windscreen of my car was smashed and I've lost some personal belongings. After I dealt with all the police reporting in Amsterdam, I drove back to Germany and I had to stop at a petrol station to fill the tank. A police car came in and stopped next to me, the policeman said he saw the broken rear windscreen and asked what happened. After I explained what happened to the car in Amsterdam and told him that I've filed a report in Amsterdam, he asked if I was ok and if I needed any help. When I politely declined, he wished me a good day and reminded me to drive safely home then drove away.
If only all policemen around the world are like this...
To be fair, the German and other European police forces are a lot more relaxed because the do not expect somebody to have a weapon or something. There has been one incident recently with 2 police officers being shot and it was a nationwide shock and of course the murderers wer caught within days.
The whole circumstances and atmosphere are just completely different.
the main focus for the police in germany is to help people, not fighting or punishing or anything destructive. and i think that mindset paired with the more thorough training makes a big difference
Sorry to hear about your experience with law enforcement in the US. I'm happy to hear that your experience in Germany until now was good (even though it's kind of sad that being treated with dignity and respect is something worth mentioning in interaction with the police... I mean this should be the bare minimum to expect). In Germany they teach us basically since kindergarten that the police is "your friend and helper". And thank God I've always felt safe seeing policemen. Even in protests I've always been treated with respect. But I'm also aware that I'm in a privileged position as I'm a white woman and therefore haven't been subjected to racial profiling or racism which I know sadly also exists here in Germany. But generally speaking I think german police has a lot of psychological training and is trying to deescalate difficult situation instead of escalating peaceful interactions. Of course that's just a generalization and there are good and bad cops here as everywhere.
The police stopping you on the Dutch / German border, despite it being within the Schengen area, where open border policies have been established, really has nothing to with skin color, but with drug trafficking in general.
My favorite story was from a medieval show-fight actor, who owned loads of (blunt) swords, maces, a full show-fight armor set, etc. He usually leaves all of his equipment in the trunk of his car because it is too much of a hassle to unload each time, when he has to travel to the next show in a few days. He even is licensed to carry all of these (non-dangerous) weapons.
So he travelled to the Netherlands to visit some friends and buy some Dutch specialities, including some Vla filled cookies, which he could ONLY get from a tiny store.
He got back from the Netherlands and was pulled over at the border by the German Zoll, the border and toll patrol. The cops were really friendly, and asked him politely what he was doing in the Netherlands. He said: "Oh, I had a coffee with my friends, then bought some special cookies." He knew PERFECTLY well that these were euphemisms for smoking weed (in a Dutch 'Coffeeshop') and buying space cookies (= marijuana cookies). The cops instantly turned a bit anxious, and still asked him fairly politely, but firmly, to open his trunk.
He said: "Uuuuh, no, I don't want to do that."
Cops: "Why not? You have to, because we asked you to."
Him: "Because it's full of weapons and my gear."
Cops: (raised eyebrows, unbuttoning his holster): "Sir, please get out of the car and open your trunk."
Him: (grinning from ear to ear): "Ok, if you demand it..." and opens the trunk.
After a few moments and a friendly explanation that he had pranked the cops, and a few flabberghasted moments the cops laughed so hard when they saw the blunt swords and armor, topped off with the professionally sealed Vla cookies. My friend even broke open one packet of cookies, showed them the ingredients list (no marijuana at all), and offered them some. They mock-scolded him, grinning as well, then sent him on his way. They probably had a funny story to tell back at the precinct.
As a German, I have to share a positive comment about the Florida highway patrol. In the late 80s, we were on a tourist trip in Florida, riding from Key West to Miami in a Chrysler Sebring. When changing highways, I ran over a STOP sign without noticing it. Seconds later, a police car pulled us over. The officer told me, what I did. I‘m very sorry, I replied. His comment: You would be much sorrier if a truck ran over you! Then he asked me for my ID and driver‘s license. It‘s in the trunk, I replied. So he let me go to the trunk and I showed him the papers. Oh, you are German! Where are you heading for? I told him and he said, ok, we‘ll show you part of the way and give you a sign, when to leave the highway, which they did. Great positive experience!
The education here is about 3-4 years. Including tests about their mental health. I guess this is why you get better treated here than in the US.
I had several times with the police but never had problems. Mostly „traffic control“ (allgemeine Verkehrskontrolle). But two times a discussion with the police. But the funniest time i’ve had was when i was on my way home after my nightshift 31.12./1.1. early at 6 a.m. They stopped me and asked about alcohol. When i said i worked the whole night they said directly i could go on and wished me a „good night“. Not control of my papers or something else.
The Dutch/German border is a hotspot for getting pulled over...mainly because of weed smuggling..weed is fairly legal in the Netherlands therefore easy to get but still illegal in Germany but other drugs got smuggled as well...Rotterdam is simply the biggest international haven for goods in Europe, so you can imagine drugs make their way to Europe via Rotterdam in high margins.
Well after they have noticed that you were US American and that you behaved well they might thought you were just a Tourist or someone from a military base, because usually they would have searched your car as a routine check and when you had behaved in any way suspicious they would have done a drug test as well..BUT there are also cops out there who are doing those things/car search+drug test no matter what as well....just always behave well and then those - even when they search your car and let you make a drug test - are no big deal, just as advice.
Those cops belonged to a unit specialised in drug trafficking. But the fact they didn’t search you or the car shows they immediately realised they stopped the wrong car
Hi Trey, I'm glad that our German police left you with a positive feeling about them. As you may have seen in the news there are some expats with totally different experiences unfortunately.
But in generel I can confirm your experience. I'm a 56y old German and over the last almost 40 years I had numerous contacts with German police officers and none of those contacts was out of line in any way. They've been always professionel and friendly, living up to the old slogan "Die Polizei, dein Freund und Helfer". I've read the other comments so I don't see any reason to go deeper than that.
What I like to add though is that, as fan of "Late Night With Seth Meyers", I was shocked when one of his writers, Amber Ruffin, reported about her experiences with US police officers after the "I can't breathe" incident. So I watched American news casts more regularly and can definetly sympathize with your statement that being pulled over in the US and not being a white person can easyly become a life or death situation.
The husband of a former collegue of mine was an officer at the "Wasserschutzpolizei" in Wiesbaden. And even he said that he really got scared when having been pulled over and being approached by a police officer when being on vacation in the US. He said the obvious tension only faded when he handed over his documents to the officer and one of those stated that he was with the German police. But up until that point he was very intimidated by that officers demenour...
I go to the Netherlands a few times a year to shop, I live not too far from the border. And yes, the drug checks once you get back over the border is a common thing. Meanwhile I have enough new coffee in my bags to power a small country
It's me again, Martin;-)
As always, I can chime in here with what happened to me in Germany and the US. I had a couple of incidents in Germany with police over the years, and even though I hated the fact that whatever incident it was, broken taillight, speeding... the German police was always professional. At times they seemed to be like "I am police, you have to do what I say" without saying it, but letting you know, you have to follow their rules. While I never got arrested or feared for my live, sometimes I felt a bit like "Seriously, you pulled me over for that?" and then got a long lecture about things, but never got a ticket. However, the most important thing about German police VS American is, again, education. In Germany, in order to become a police officer, you have to have a specific school grade, you cannot be over a specific age, you have to be physically fit, you cannot have any financial issues, you need to be able to swim and many more. Once you are cleared to become a police officer, you are going to school for about 3,5 years to learn about the job. A big part of that is psychological training to asses the situations you are in to make sure you never harm another person if not needed. How do I know? My best friend from school became a police officer and has been for over 30 years.
I had incidents in the US. However, I must say, being white I never had an issue with the officers besides one time that scared the shit out of me. A friend of mine visited me in Las Vegas. She was flying home with British Airways and we were at Terminal 1 as the first leg was with Delta. However, in there they told us we need to go to Terminal 3 as she needs to check in there? So, we ran out of Terminal 1 into the parking garage, got into my beat up Ford Escort and drove over to Terminal 3 when the police with 3 big SUV's stopped us at gunpoint between the Terminals. Had to show my hands out the window, unbuckle with my left hand, all while officers were pointing the gun at me and my friend. I was scared shit and had no idea what was going on. Once I was out, I had to stand against the car, got handcuffed and they searched me, took my wallet end went into one of the SUV's. Came back 5 minutes later and apologized as they were trying to find a group of thief's that are in the airport and they had also a gray old car like mine. After I explained why we were running out the terminal and "racing" over to Terminal 3, they actually escorted us to Terminal 3 which was nice. One officer said to my friend, "Now you have a story to tell at home" and a story it was.
What I learned from it is that US police is at first ALWAYS escalating things and making the incident 100 times bigger than it actually is. They block of the road for 20 minutes from one Terminal to another so they can do their job. In Germany, they would have escorted you to a side road and simply talked to you and asked for your ID. I am sure that due to the lack of education, all these situations of people being killed by police could have been avoided as it does not make sense to shoot ANY person, who is running AWAY from you, in the back 60 times (Sorry, had to bring that in there).
Be safe, Martin
part of the training of the police. Profiling in the form of nice or at least professional interaction. They don't want to spend half an hour uselessly searching your car, so within 5 minutes they determine that you don't fit the profile of a typical drug runner. And even if you did fit the profile, a positive interaction is safer and more pleasant for all involved.
I have been pulled over by police every other time when crossing from the Netherlands into Germany. Seems I perfectly fit their target group for drug trafficking. Which is, I don’t know, man under thirty in a car with non-local registration, apparently.
I think you also were a bit lucky with your encounter with the Bundespolizei. Obviously it's nowhere near as bad as in the US, but particularly the Bundespolizei (federal police, guarding borders and train stations) can be among the toughest when it comes to the branches of German law enforcement
When you come back from the netherlands it is possible to get into a check for drugs. Its common since the drug laws between the netherlands and germany are different.
But when they look at you see nothing wierd you are good to go in a few minutes.
A lot of european police foreces are highly trained and relaxed as long as you stay calm yourself and I remeber when I was visiting the US I had a different feeling around police too.
It‘s nice to hear you tell such positive things about Germany and in this case its police. But to be honest, a US-citizen travelling with his wife and kid is not the typical drug dealer across the Netherlands border. They probably knew very soon after they stopped you, that there was in all probability nothing to find here and did just a basic check and then left you alone. Had you been travelling alone and with some other nationality, the check would probably have been much more thorough, though I hope with the same respect and politeness.
Hopefully you had a wonderfull time on holidays, expecially in the Netherlands (my home country). I guess the police in Netherlands/Germany are better and/or differently educated than theire American coulleages.
Reckless driving tickets can only be given when the situation is investigated and have proof like when you pull on the breaks your tiers must show several meters of rubber on the asphalt. It just can't be that the police mans water tells him this and you getting punished by it.
I work for the German Customs near the german/Belgian border. When I was with the Unit for border control we worked closely with the Bundespolizei (Federal Police). In Germany it is usually just like you said. If you don't seem genuinely suspicious you really don't have to be afraid to be controlled. It's always nice when the people being stopped are just friendly and don't argue about it, so you just have a nice talk for a second and everything's well and fine.