Germany sets up commission to investigate police racism
After a senior politician accused the German police of “latent racism”, the government announced that it will set up a commission to investigate issues like racial profiling within police forces.
Investigation into racism in German police
With anti-racism and anti-police violence protests continuing in the US and across the world, Germany’s Interior and Justice ministries have announced that they will begin a study to investigate whether German police forces have a racism problem that needs tackling. According to a spokesperson, the study is currently in the “conceptual development” phase.
The move comes just a few days after Saskia Esken, one of the co-leaders of the SPD party, sparked a fierce debate by claiming that there was “latent racism in the ranks of the security forces” in Germany. Although Esken emphasised that she did not believe the vast majority of officers were racist, she advocated setting up an independent commission that would investigate racial profiling in the police.
Esken’s comments provoke debate on racism in German police
Her comments provoked an angry backlash from a number of conservative politicians and police unions. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer disputed Esken’s comments, while Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, who is also a member of the SPD, said that she did not see a “particular, structural racism problem,” in the German police force.
The Green party, on the other hand, welcomed the government’s plan to investigate, with a spokesperson stating, “We need to understand whether we are talking about isolated incidents or whether we have a structural problem.”
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also expressed his support for the idea, especially given the current global context: “We should not pretend that racism is just a US problem,” he told Bild. “There are 300.000 right-wing extremists living in Germany. In our country, too, there are racist attacks, black people are discriminated against, Jews have their Kippa torn off. First of all, we have to sweep around our own front door. Racism kills - not only in the USA.”
Racial profiling banned in Germany - in theory
In Germany, policing is handled at a state level, meaning that exact rules on controls can vary from state to state. Nonetheless, the Basic Law expressly forbids discrimination due to “gender, origin, race, language, homeland and heritage, beliefs, religious or political views.” Generally, a police officer needs to have concrete suspicion that a crime has been committed to carry out a control on a member of the public.
This should mean that a person’s appearance is not taken into consideration. However, back in 2018 a German judge ruled that authorities could use skin colour as a criterion “when the police have concrete indications that persons with darker skin colour incur criminal penalties over-proportionally more often” within a certain area.