The Warmoesstraat: Police Work in the Inner City
The Warmoesstraat, one of the oldest streets in the city, is a narrow street full of clubs, hotels, cafés, small businesses and a few old-fashioned shops in the heart of Amsterdam. At the time of the research the police station was housed in temporary accommodation. Next door, behind the builder’s hoarding, one could still see the wall of the old, and notorious, station which was being demolished and rebuilt. The old building was cramped and crowded and was apparently unpleasant both for policemen and their ‘clients’. The cells were in a basement worthy of Mervyn Peake; they lay beneath the water-line and smelt like an unwholesome medieval dungeon. Some men claimed to be ashamed at having to take ‘decent’ suspects down those infamous steps. The working conditions for the men were also not particularly edifying. At one end of the canteen was a long bench where suspects awaited their turn to be booked while, at the other end, off-duty policemen were eating their lunch or typing under the eyes of curious, scornful or annoying suspects. It was in such circumstances that an excited or aggressive suspect could receive a thick ear, or even a stripe over the face with a sabre, for disturbing the peace in the canteen. Out of such conditions was bred an attitude that perhaps the Warmoesstraat was a rough-and-tumble station where business, and sometimes justice, was handled quickly and somewhat gruffly.
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