Consequences of the NRW police scandal: a structural problem?

To this day, the interior ministers have refused to conduct a study on extremism in the police. The NRW affair, however, gives weight to the demand.

Now wants to clarify: North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Herbert Reul Photo: Rolf Vennenberg / dpa

DÜSSELDORF / BERLIN taz | Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) spoke on Thursday in the North Rhine-Westphalia state parliament of a “dimension and abomination that I did not think possible”. Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) also let his spokesman speak of a “shame”. And BKA President Holger Münch admitted that it was about “incidents that considerably shake confidence in the police”.

The question is: what follows from this?

We are talking about the NRW police scandal. 29 police officers were suspended because they were part of right-wing extremist Whatsapp chat groups, some of which had existed since 2012. Almost all of the victims belonged to the Essen Police Headquarters, a service group in Mülheim was completely released, including the service group leader. On Thursday, Reul spoke of another suspended officer, also from the Mülheim group.

The consequences are now being discussed nationwide. And the affair could get worse. Because so far the investigators only had the phone of one officer who started the investigation. But since Wednesday they have been evaluating 43 phones, 18 SIM cards, 21 USB sticks, 20 hard drives, 9 tablets and 9 PCs. A decorative weapon and small amounts of narcotics were also found.

Do we need nationwide consequences?

Reul has already installed a special representative for right-wing extremist tendencies in the police, the previous Vice-Constitutional Protection Officer Uwe Reichel-Offermann. This should now work out a picture of the situation and prevention recommendations. But is that enough? How could it be that no one in the police reported the chat groups for years? And isn’t there a need for supra-regional measures?

Reul admits that one can no longer speak of individual cases. Seehofer’s spokesman also said: “We’re not talking about individuals.” Right-wing extremist chat groups of Hessian police officers became known as early as the end of 2018 – after threatening faxes to the lawyer Seda Başay-Yıldız. This triggered 38 criminal and disciplinary proceedings. A right-wing prepper network in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had already been exposed beforehand, which created lists of enemies and in which police officers and soldiers took part. In Lahr, Baden-Württemberg, seven police students who exchanged right-wing extremist chats were suspended. And in North Rhine-Westphalia a police employee from Hamm who is said to be part of the right-wing terror group “Group S.” was arrested in March.

The demand for an independent nationwide investigation into right-wing extremist attitudes of police officers has therefore been in the air for some time. Greens, leftists and parts of the SPD are now calling for this again. Sebastian Fiedler, chairman of the Association of German Criminal Investigators, also declared it overdue to “let scientists join our ranks”. Seehofer and other interior ministers, including Reul, have so far blocked such a study, as well as one on racial profiling.

The protection of the constitution is fighting with a picture of the situation

Instead, Seehofer recently referred to a situation report on extremism in the security authorities, which the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is currently working on. After repeated postponements, this should now be ready at the end of September. The creation showed difficulties: Which incidents are even listed? Are suspicious cases already counting or are disciplinary proceedings just completed?

According to ARD The deliveries from the countries were initially so meager that the constitutional protection chief Thomas Haldenwang demanded additional deliveries, including suspected cases. NRW is said to have only submitted 12 cases. A spokeswoman for Reuls said that the current 30 police cases are currently being agreed with the Federal Office.

The criminologist Tobias Singelnstein nevertheless considers an independent scientific study on right-wing extremist attitudes in the police to be “absolutely necessary”. “We finally need reliable figures on how big the problem is. The structural character of the problem has not yet been recognized. ”For Singelnstein, the situation report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution is not sufficient. “The Office for the Protection of the Constitution has not been able to collect the numbers for years and it is not the right institution.”

“Those who remain silent are complicit”

Left and Greens are also calling for independent complaints offices for police incidents. Singelnstein also advocates a new police culture. If no one reported the right-wing extremist chats, there was obviously no clear internal demarcation. “A culture is needed in which the democratic self-image is actually lived.” On Thursday, Reul also confirmed that the police had a “posture problem” in parts: For reasons of comradeship, misconduct is kept silent. But: “Anyone who remains silent is complicit.”

In fact, there were early indications of right-wing ideas in Essen – even if Police President Frank Richter was surprised and stunned on Wednesday. According to the anti-fascist alliance “Essen is standing across”, left-wing rallies have been bullied for months, unlike right-wing marches. In addition, officials had become racially conspicuous. When the alliance named this, there was: a criminal complaint. “The fact that there is a problem within the Essen police authority seems blatant to us,” explained the initiative.