by Thorsten Koch
If police officers carry out personal checks without any real reason, but solely on the basis of external characteristics such as skin color, this is prohibited. It is racist. Racism occurs, according to many of those affected. Nevertheless, the Federal Ministry of the Interior has canceled a study on racial profiling, which had initially been announced. The Interior Minister pledged zero tolerance against racism and promised an inquiry into every known case.
Unconditional personal checks by police based on external characteristics are racist – and forbidden. Nevertheless, there are reports from those affected. Interior Minister Seehofer has now canceled a planned study on the phenomenon. The study had been recommended by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in one of their reports. The ECRI is a body of the Council of Europe. Initially, the Federal Government, including the Federal Ministry of Justice, had not ruled out carrying out such an investigation, and had even announced it, according to reports.
Unwarranted personal checks prohibited
According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, however, a study is not considered sensible. “We will not commission such a study as recommended by the ECRI”, a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior said. The ministry justified Minister Horst Seehofer’s decision by that unwarranted personal checks are prohibited in police practice. Personal checks, for example by the federal police, would have to be carried out without discrimination, in order to exclude unequal treatment. If racial profiling occurs, this was the so in exceptional cases.
Seehofer himself said in an interview that he wanted all measures taken by his ministry to actually “make a difference”. The accusation that there is latent racism in parts of the German police was absolutely incomprehensible, said Seehofer, according to a spokesman, adding that there is zero tolerance for racism, and that every individual case of racism is investigated.
A missed opportunity
Parts of the opposition spoke of a lack of willingness to provide information and were not satisfied with the fact that the Federal Ministry of the Interior had emphasized that racial profiling was inadmissible. In Schleswig-Holstein and Bremen, unlike in other Federal States, state police are “quite open to a nationwide study,” said a spokesman. An investigation could help to objectify the debate. Criticism came from the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. The Federal Ministry of the Interior had skipped an opportunity to conduct fundamental research and to evaluate existing cases. The argument that racial profiling is practically non-existent among the police is not very valid, the agency said. Most recently, the Federal Ministry of the Interior had admitted “individual cases” of racialized checks of persons.
Federal Justice Minister Lambrecht still wants the study to be commissioned. Even if her department is not responsible, she considers an investigation to be important. A study would not place anyone under general suspicion, but had the aim of determining the state of play. The Federal Ministry of Justice had previously commented that a study was an important step in obtaining well-founded knowledge about the phenomenon and crucial when it came to talking about countermeasures.
Study must be designed and conducted independently
Police scientist Rafael Behr, a professor at the Hamburg Police Academy, emphasized the advantages of a study. An investigation was a good sign and would involve the police at least at the federal level. Studies were more of use than detrimental, and thus, it was possible that some Federal States would come to participate. So far, independent investigations have mainly been prevented by staff representatives and unions. The last studies on racism in the police came from the 1990s. “Precarious” questions would also have to be asked. Recent studies on right-wing extremism in the police were “suboptimal” because the independent advisory board “obviously had little influence on the questions” which were asked.
Behr emphasized that the police were “not a racist organization”. However, he sees no structures in which cases of racist utterings and racist acts are effectively combated. The known cases “go far beyond individual cases,” he said. One possibility is to set up a “whistleblower system” in addition to external police officers to investigate and investigate anonymous information. Because it is extremely difficult for the police to openly oppose colleagues. The police are in fact a collegial body. It has not yet been clarified, according to Behr, whether racism is more common in the police than in other professions, however.
Association: cases trivialized
Behr explained cases of racism with the everyday experiences of the police officers. The officials had many frustrating experiences, which resulted in “patterns and ideologies”. There is also a culture of dominance, the idea of being able to control everything, and having to carry out ongoing measures until the end.
The Association of Binational Families said that people seeking advice had reported racist incidents again and again. These were trivialized. The ECRI also found evidence that racial profiling was common among the German police.
Contact points in place
The chairman of the German Police Union (GdP), Schilff, rejected allegations that there was latent, structural or institutionalized racism among the German police. Racism must have consequences. It is absurd to accude police officers of a basic racist attitude. The domestic spokesman for the CDU-CSU faction in the German Bundestag, Middelberg, admitted isolated cases of racism among police officers. However, there are the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency and ombudsmen in place and office. These are contact points to make complaints about violence and discrimination.
The SPD chairwoman Esken had previously said that there was latent racism in the ranks of the police. However, the vast majority of police are critical of this. Esken warned of a potential loss of trust and that the impression could arise that the corps spirit prevalent among the police was above the validity of civil rights. Racism also existed among the German security authorities, she said. An independent complaints office must therefore be created to investigate crimes according to internal leadership, Esken proposed.