Guest column

Ingrid Schäfer-Poels

Chief of police for the Limburg unit of the Dutch National Police Force

“People often ask me ‘Why are the police working at the campus now?’ There isn’t just one reason for our arrival at the Brightlands Smart Services Campus in Heerlen; there are actually several. By working and forging alliances with companies and researchers, we believe we can operate in a more innovative manner. Why would you want to try to come up with all the smart technology yourself when there are people who already know so much about this and can help you? This is why we chose Brightlands. 

  Wanting to do it all
yourself is outdated.

Fighting cybercrime and financial-economic crime for example; these activities are often very hard to detect. With a murder, the goal is to arrest the perpetrator fast. But if you start seeing more frequently that this perpetrator is a hit man, then it becomes much more important to learn more about the background situation and figure out who is giving the orders. These are very different investigations, where intelligence and data play a major role. We also want to use this data for other types of police work. By being able to analyze data fast and accurately, we believe we might eventually be able to predict where break-ins can be expected. 

You can't make connections from a police station

In spite of this, the substantive aspects of police work are not the only reason we decided to come to the campus. The police have always been a fairly closed organization that wants to do everything itself. This is an outdated concept. In my vision on police work in the future, we are going to literally connect to the society the police work for and in. You can’t make these connections from a police station. This is another reason we are working at the campus. 

The power of chance meetings

We have been here around six months now and it really is so refreshing. You end up meeting so many different people, young and old, some of them are a bit countercultural. There are researchers, people with a start-up and well-known companies and institutes, and students. Everyone has their own story. I recently had a conversation with some students. It was so interesting to hear what motivates these young people and how they view their future and us, as the police. I am going to call the school soon and continue that coincidental conversation. These are people I hope we will be able to get interested in coming to work for us. I never would have met them at our police stations; this was easy at the campus. 

Brightlands’ international focus also helps since here in the Euregion we also work a lot with our Belgian and German colleagues. Some of our Belgian counterparts were at the campus a while back and were incredibly enthusiastic about what goes on here; they wanted to move in straight away! 

You have to get out of your comfort zone to achieve results

I realize that this is a completely different way of looking at police work. I sometimes still have to convince colleagues, even within our unit, of the value. It forces you to step outside of your comfort zone. Of course, at some point people will ask me what kind of concrete results it has generated. Everything I have seen and heard up to now has been really encouraging. Content and results are naturally super important. The culture of collaboration and partnership that dominates here at the campus should be a model to emulate for the police work of the future.”

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Ingrid Schäfer-Poels

In March, Ingrid Schäfer-Poels (41) was appointed chief of police for the Limburg unit of the Dutch National Police Force. This makes her the youngest chief of police in the country, and the first female “boss” in Limburg, responsible for around 2,700 police officers and civilians working for the police.

Ingrid Schäfer has held various positions within the police organization including adviser to the regional police force manager. Prior to being appointed chief of police, her most recent position was that of sector head for the Parkstad region.

Before she started working for the police in 2006, Ingrid Schäfer-Poels worked for the municipalities of Geleen and Sittard-Geleen, as policy adviser for Integral Security and Executive Secretary for the mayor, among other positions.

Ingrid Schäfer is married and has two children.