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Dutch cops explore Woodbury, American criminal justice system

Dutch police investigators Evert Ziesemer, Niels Limmen and Jan Hooiveld spent a week with Woodbury police as part of a foreign exchange requirement in their master's degree work. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

Woodbury police went under international investigation last week - voluntarily, of course.

Three Dutch police officers got an up-close look at the American criminal justice system during a brief stay with Woodbury police.

The officers visited Woodbury as part of a master's level criminal investigation program that includes a foreign exchange component.

Evert Ziesemer, an officer from the Zaanstreek, Netherlands, police department, said the goal of the visit was to observe and study American investigatory techniques.

The international investigators ended up in Woodbury thanks to a local connection: Ziesemer is a cousin of Woodbury police officer Chris Huhn's wife. Huhn said Ziesemer contacted him to request Woodbury facilitate the experience.

The trip - which included stops at various Twin Cities law enforcement agencies and the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Red Wing -- was eye opening, the Dutch officers said.

The eye opening experiences began by learning the United States' complex legal system, which includes different laws at the local, county, state and federal levels.

"We just have one law, one court," Ziesemer said.

But, he said, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"We work very efficient with one law," said Ziesemer, whose investigatory focus in the Netherlands is juvenile issues.

He said he was surprised to learn the severity of punishment ordered in America's youth cases.

However, he said he was impressed by the educational components in place for youth offenders at MCF-Red Wing.

"What Red Wing is doing - that's just perfect," Ziesemer said. "What we have to do is teach them."

He said human trafficking has become a national concern in the Netherlands, where women from former Eastern Bloc countries end up there as part of prostitution rings.

While marijuana possession in Dutch coffee houses is allowed, growing the plant is not. Ziesemer said Dutch cops make frequent busts at residences, where people grow the plant illegally.

As for decriminalizing marijuana in the states: "I'm not sure," he said.

"If you do, then you have the same problem you do with alcohol."

Jan Hooiveld, a homicide detective from Hoorn, Netherlands, said the visit showed him how police can better connect with the media. That's not a common practice in his home country, he said.

"I see advantages in it," Hooiveld said.

The American system gave Hoorn and homicide detective Niels Limmen some insight on possible ways for Dutch police to adapt to a new law that requires an attorney to be present during questioning.

The new law has presented challenges back home, Ziesemer said.

"It seems we have to change our whole police strategy," he said.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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