How racist are the police in Germany? The question is a constant topic in German print and internet media, threatening emails that had the unmistakable abbreviation NSU 2.0 as their signature two years ago. The details of the addressees had been retrieved from databases of the Hessian police. First, they met a lawyer representing NSU murder victims.
It continued with compelling emails addressed to politicians and journalists. North Rhine-Westphalia’s interior minister recently announced that he has suspended 30 police officers for operating in right-wing WhatsApp chat groups. And a few days ago, the Berlin prosecutor opened an investigation against seven participants in a course at the local police academy who wanted to progress from the middle to the higher service. You are suspected of sedition.
You don’t have to be a fan of scandals to admit to the thought that there is a problem with the police. A problem that can be tackled better today than tomorrow. Can a police investigation into racism do that, as is currently demanded from many quarters? It is already possible, it just has to be designed, then realized and finally discussed.
What is already there are the 16 police colleges in the federal states, the German police university in Münster and the federal police academy in Lübeck with decentralized facilities. Smoking must now be done at all management levels. No society can function without a police monopoly on the use of force. But a monopoly of violence held by police officers with deep-seated prejudices is gradually losing its claim to legitimate authority in society. Even if the suspicion only applies to a few.
Like politics, the police are responsible for the big picture. The necessary reforms are more complex than firing some police officers and calling them a thorn in their side. Reforms must come from within, but be closely monitored and aligned with society and science.
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Another word on the idea that more people from immigrant families in the police force, possibly regulated by quotas, are some kind of panacea against racism. This is a popular, yet simple suggestion – and a burden to those working in the police force. Breaking through an isolated police culture requires more than a diverse personnel policy.