Black and minority ethnic (BME) populations are disproportionately detained in psychiatric hospitals. To examine the dangerousness criteria for compulsory court ordered admission to a psychiatric hospital in White and BME persons. We examined the psychiatric examinations for court ordered compulsory admissions in 506 White and 299 BME persons from October 2004 until January 2008 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The White and BME groups are compared using Chi-square tests and in case of significant differences with logistic regression models adjusted for age, gender, mental disorders and socio-economic background. In BME persons, violence towards others and neglect of relatives were more often reasons to request court order admission as compared with Whites (39.8 vs. 25.3%, P < 0.001, respectively, 6.4 vs. 2.4%, P = 0.01). This remained true after adjustment for age, gender, mental disorders and socio-economic background [OR 1.56 (95% CI 1.12-2.18), P = 0.01, respectively; OR 3.08 (95% CI 1.31-7.26), P = 0.01]. The other reasons for a request of court order admission had a similar prevalence in both groups (suicide or self-harm, social decline, severe self-neglect, arousal of aggression of others, danger to the mental health of others, and the general safety of persons and goods). Violence towards others and neglect of relatives are more often a reason to request court ordered admission in BME than in White persons. BME patients are more often perceived as potentially dangerous to others.