Police scandal in NRW: images of Hitler and swastikas

In NRW, 29 police officers are suspended who exchanged information in right-wing extremist chat groups. Interior Minister Reul speaks of a “shame”.

Is appalled by the police affair: North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Herbert Reul Photo: Marcel Kusch / dpa

DÜSSELDORF / BERLIN taz | North Rhine-Westphalia is shaken by a police scandal. Since early Wednesday morning, searches of 29 police officers have been in progress in several cities. You are said to have shared right-wing extremist content in Whatsapp chat groups. Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) spoke of “the worst and most disgusting neo-Nazi, racist and anti-refugee agitation”. The incidents hit the police “to the core”. They are “a shame for the NRW police”.

Mainly affected is the Essen police headquarters. 25 of the 29 officials accused come from there. Most belonged to the subordinate service group in Mülheim an der Ruhr, which was completely suspended. The local service group leader is also accused, as well as another from the SEK Essen, one from the LKA, one from the State Office for Training and two from the State Office for Central Police Services.

A total of 34 police stations and private apartments were searched, in addition to Essen and Mülheim in Duisburg, Oberhausen and Moers. The officials are said to have exchanged right-wing extremist content in five private chat groups. The first of the groups is said to have been founded in 2012, the largest in 2015.

Swastikas and Hitler pictures

Reul spoke of well over 100 criminally relevant images in the chat groups. On display are Adolf Hitler and swastikas or fictional representations of a refugee in a gas chamber or a black person who is shot. The CDU politician spoke of “hideous content”. 11 of the officials are now being investigated for disseminating symbols of unconstitutional organizations and inciting hatred. You should have put the pictures in the groups.

The other 18 officers are said to have only received the pictures. However, disciplinary measures are now also in progress against them on suspicion of violations – because they did not report the content. According to Reul, all 29 police officers are suspended, they had to surrender their uniforms and service weapons and are no longer allowed to enter their service buildings. Efforts are being made to remove 14 officials from service.

“The process leaves me speechless,” said Reul. Right-wing extremists have “no place in the police”. He could no longer speak of individual cases. The majority of the 50,000 police officers in North Rhine-Westphalia are “highly decent people and democrats”.

Only revealed by accident

The investigators only came across the chat groups by chance – after a 32-year-old official was searched at the end of August. The policeman was accused of having disclosed police matters to a journalist. The chat groups were then discovered on his cell phone. Then a separate investigative group began its work, the “SoKo Parable”. And the scandal could expand: until now, the investigators only had access to the 32-year-old’s cell phone. Since Wednesday, however, far more data carriers have been evaluated.

Reul announced that he would deal with the affair “down to the smallest detail”. On Wednesday he ordered the formation of a special inspection for the Essen police headquarters. There it should be checked whether there are further cases and how many officials still knew of the chat groups. In addition, Reul announced a special representative for right-wing extremist tendencies in the state police, who will report directly to him. This should develop a picture of the situation and recommendations for action for prevention. There will also be regional conferences with police leaders.

Police union and politics “shaken”

The Essen police chief Frank Richter, whose house is mainly affected, said that he could not have imagined such a case. There were no abnormalities, only private devices were used for the chats. That none of the officers involved had informed his employer was shocking.

The police union in North Rhine-Westphalia also reacted with “great horror” to the incidents. “Fighting right-wing extremism is part of the police’s DNA,” said Vice President Michael Maatz. “The fact that there are still officials who share right-wing, xenophobic content in chat groups is unbearable.”

The CDU interior expert Christos Katzidis was also “deeply shaken”: “That those who should protect and defend our values ​​have trampled them instead is scandalous.” SPD country chief Sebastian Hartmann called for a “relentless explanation and zero Tolerance against the enemies of our democratic society ”.