Extremists in security authorities: Seehofer’s “low” number of cases

A situation report counts 380 right-wing extremist incidents in the security authorities, 1,064 in the Bundeswehr. A structural problem? No, says Seehofer.

See few problems: Thomas Haldenwang and Horst Seehofer at the press conference on October 6th Photo: Wolfgang Kumm / dpa

BERLIN taz | Horst Seehofer sounds almost relieved. “We have no structural problem in the security authorities,” said the Federal Interior Minister on Tuesday in Berlin. 99 percent of civil servants, and thus the “very, very vast majority”, are “firmly on the ground of the Basic Law”. The authorities had his “absolute confidence”, they were doing “an excellent job”.

What Seehofer presented on that day is not a figurehead for the officers, on the contrary. The minister presented the situation report “Right-wing extremists in the security authorities”, written by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, almost 100 pages thick and a premiere. The result: 319 suspected cases in the police forces and offices for the protection of the constitution in the federal states, plus 58 cases in the federal authorities, such as the federal police or the BKA. And 1,064 suspected cases in the Bundeswehr.

In fact, reports on right-wing extremist incidents in the security authorities have not been torn off recently. Corresponding chat groups were opened with the police in Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin, KSK soldiers were suspended because of Hitler salutes, and right-wing constitutional protection officials who were supposed to be observing neo-Nazis were reported. Seehofer clearly criticizes these cases, referring to the role model function of the officers: “Every proven case is a shame.” You clarify these “without ifs or buts” and pursue them “rigorously”. Overall, however, Seehofer calls the number of cases “low”, measured against the approximately 300,000 security guards in this country.

Constitutional Protection President Thomas Haldenwang formulated more cautiously, speaking of “incidents that go beyond individual cases”. Each case is one too many. Because they are likely to shake confidence in the state. The defense of these activities is therefore “an existential protective measure” for the state.

Long lead time for the management report

Seehofer and Haldenwang also refer to the consequences that have already been drawn. The federal authorities had 23 dismissals due to right-wing extremist incidents, and 48 cases in the federal states. 70 soldiers were released from the Bundeswehr. Overall, most of the events involved right-wing extremist statements or chat messages. Only one case was uncovered in the countries in which a person also took part in right-wing extremist events. At least ten people had contact with well-known right-wing extremists or initiatives, two were even members.

The creation of Haldenwang’s situation report was tough. A year ago, after terror allegations against a prepper group, in which soldiers and police officers also participated, and after the assassination attempt on Walter Lübcke, the constitution protection set up a central office for extremists in the security authorities. This should create the report. The authorities previously did not keep any statistics in this field because the incidents were assessed as individual cases.

But the survey was bumpy, and the report had to be postponed several times: Should only completed disciplinary proceedings count – or already suspected cases? The federal states initially opted for the former and delivered so few cases that Haldenwang also demanded that open proceedings be named. The figures are now available.

Incidents from January 2017 to the end of March this year were recorded, and those that led to action, most of them disciplinary proceedings. In the case of the Federal Police, this affects 44 cases, the BKA six, the Customs four, the BND two, in Haldenwang’s own authority there is one case. The scope of the Bundeswehr is far greater: of the total of 1,064 suspected cases, 363 new cases were added last year alone. It is precisely these cases that are worrying because they affect people who handle weapons.

How big is the dark field?

In the federal states, Hessen reported the most cases with 59, followed by Berlin with 53, NRW with 45, Bavaria with 31, and Saxony 28. On the other hand, Bremen only reported one case and Saarland none at all. The numbers should therefore be treated with caution – because behind them there is probably a larger dark field slumbering. And some of them are also outdated: the 31 police officers recently suspended in North Rhine-Westphalia who were active in right-wing extremist chat groups are no longer included in the statistics.

A dark field is also given in the management report. “Its continuous and consistent illumination is a prominent task for the security authorities,” it says there. Seehofer and Haldenwang emphasize that the statistics should be updated and extended to the public service. Haldenwang is also calling for better cooperation between the authorities in the future after the bumpy initial survey.

The question of how big the dark field is now remains open. Researchers point to a corps spirit in the authorities in which colleagues often cover up or look the other way during incidents. The recently known chat groups in North Rhine-Westphalia were only discovered by chance, although some of them had existed since 2015: through investigations against an official who was accused of piercing internal matters of a journalist. None of the police officers in the chat groups, including a service group leader, had reported that pictures of Hitler or swastikas had been shared there.

Seehofer therefore turns to the officials with an appeal: “Take a look, defend our constitution, take action. Passive followers are also not allowed. ”However, the heads of the authorities collectively reject a structural problem, above all Federal Police Chief Dieter Romann. Of the 51,000 federal police officers, the allegations only concern 0.09 percent, he emphasizes. He could not recognize right-wing extremist networks, and an allegation of racism was also wrong. “The police have earned our trust.”

Further dispute over study to the police

Experts like the Green interior expert and police officer Irene Mihalic, on the other hand, consider the report to be just a beginning. The report only documents the surface, says Mihalic. You and others are therefore repeating the call for independent police officers and a scientific investigation into right-wing extremist attitudes in the police – which Seehofer again refused on Tuesday.

The minister says the topic is more universal. That is why he advocates “an in-depth investigation for society as a whole”. In addition, Seehofer calls for a whole bunch of further studies that are only marginally related to the situation report: on violence against police officers, on their everyday work or on their motives for starting a career.

But even the Bund Deutscher Kriminalbeamter stated on Tuesday that the situation report had not refuted a structural problem in the authorities. The association also requested a separate study. Some countries are already making progress here. Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony will soon begin an anonymous survey of 3,000 police officers on risk factors that promote prejudice and extreme attitudes in their ranks.