Police and the law of silence

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She does not have the right to speak. Always not. Sandra Steffens * tells her story for over three years. But talk about it, says her employer, she should not.

The employer of Steffens is the police in North Rhine-Westphalia. Where exactly the woman with long brown hair serves as a curator today, should not be betrayed. Rightly, it should be said that their employer is "again" the police. Because in 2016, the 39-year-old had been released. She had trouble getting back to work.

This is their subject, their story, reconstructed from public records and lawsuits. It is a brave and stoic fight that you have certainly not recommended. The story of Steffens is still something else. This represents disturbing conclusions about the institution of the police, which, according to the German conception of the state, is one of the cornerstones of democracy and economic prosperity; it represents an institution around which public debate has begun.

Just recently, former CDU parliamentary leader Friedrich Merz expressed his concern over the proximity of the German security forces to the right-wing populist parties – and Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to make a statement on # 39; honor. "The vast majority of our police," said Merkel, "is doing a good service to this state."

But the situation is not so simple. Handelsblatt's research shows that the German police, guarantor of civil rights and corporate security, faces a systemic problem. Critical ghosts are often muzzled when it comes to racism, police violence and rule loyalty. The law of silence prevails – and those who revolt against it are alone.

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Like Sandra Steffens. In 2016, she is about to complete her curatorial training. Until then, she had passed all exams with an average score of 1.8. Steffens is preceded by the call to challenge measures, in order to criticize the rude behavior of colleagues with citizens. She arrived at the police department late, she had laser eyes to be accepted. Later, in front of the NRW parliament 's petitions committee, she reported being intimidated by colleagues early on when she criticized her behavior. In a letter to the Handelsblatt, she states: "I had to see the police humiliate the citizens, physically and psychologically abuse them and cover other colleagues."

What is still missing in Steffens to become a Commissioner is the repetition of a unique internship associated with a job evaluation. The should come from his guardian, along with his striptease colleague. Since then, she is called with this guardian for a mission.

In Cologne is held the "Christopher Street Day" parade of gays and lesbians. There should be problems in the McDonald's branch at the cathedral. Markus Keller *, a skinny young man weighing 55 kg at 1.85 meters, exhausted in front of the toilet. The store manager had called because Keller was involved in a conflict.

What happens then is an act of mistreatment. Thus, it is now written in two judgments, the last of April 2019. Under the observation of Steffens Keller is beaten to death by an official, he is tied up, he is allowed to fall into this state from 40 inches tall, face down, On the floor, the basement is hit and beaten. Always there: the guardian of Steffens. At the level of the cellar, the blood is removed without, as prescribed, previously contacted a judge. He is ejected from the watch at one o'clock in the evening, wearing only a slip and a t-shirt. But it is not the officials who are accused, but Keller. Because of resistance and insult, also because he describes the case on Facebook to find witnesses.

For Steffens, the event becomes a matter of conscience. She says in both processes for Keller and her colleagues. Even against his preceptor, who had turned out to be the worst thug. Their statement contributes in both judgments to Keller's acquittal. On appeal, Judge Thomas Quast exceptionally justifies his decision, in the meantime, he must restrain his tears. He was "ashamed" of what kind of state Keller was facing here. Yes, he "apologizes for it". And Quast expressly thanks Steffens for his courage.

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He does it for a reason. Because in the first process, which takes place mid-2017, Steffens is no longer an official. The woman, who had previously received only good and better grades, had failed at the last internship. Judged by the chief inspector who had previously mistreated Keller.

Did she succumb, because we already suspected the critical woman not to be silent? The Cologne police do not want to get into the facts. It is already encouraged in the training to criticism, it is called on demand.

When Steffens later sued for re-employment in the administrative court and the media became interested in his case, the police academy surprisingly offered him the rehearsal of the internship after two years without being willing to speak. However, the comparison has a drawback: Steffens should give up lost wages. And: from that moment, she has to shut up again.

The law of silence, the official Omerta, is one of the main problems of the German police system. During his research, the Handelsblatt saw videos in which the police beat citizens without any foundation. But he also spoke to police officers who complained about the seriousness of their profession. And it hit officials who were themselves harassed for opening their mouths.

They are all symptoms of the same problem: they are part of an institution based on cohesion, which conversely also removes errors, thus facilitating the suppression of critical minds acting in accordance with the law and the law. order.

This is a dilemma that affects all citizens and should also worry more and more managers. Because Germany is very famous as a place of business because it is considered constitutional, as a safe ground for business and the influx of foreign workers. By considering the private security sector as a measure of the security needs of the population, the law and the bill are worth billions of euros.

According to the Federal Office of Statistics, security companies in Germany have generated a turnover of about 8 billion euros in 2017. The economic strength of Germany would not be possible without security, said the Federal Minister of Education, Anja Karliczek (CDU). "To continue in this way, we must work tirelessly on it, improve it."

Whoever tries to teach law to Bochum. Tobias Singelnstein, 41, has been dealing with mistakes in the security apparatus for years. False bodies and lies for colleagues are not isolated cases in the police, says Singelnstein. The dark number is high. And often, those who attacked it internally would be harassed. The Federal Association of Critical Police also supports this perception. According to the professional association, it is not black sheep, but "herds of black sheep".

Figures currently available, such as police statistics on crime, but insufficient to present the phenomenon adequately. Singelnstein therefore began a larger-scale study in November 2018. Funded by the German Research Foundation, he intends for the first time to systematically investigate the use of the police force from the point of view of the victims and the 39, integrate into the context of police work. As a first step, Singelnstein conducted a quantitative survey of victims via an online questionnaire. The second stage is followed by interviews with experts.

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Singelnstein wants to present his report in August. "I can not comment on the results yet, but the response to the project and our investigation has been very great."

One topic that is certainly mentioned is the right-wing extremist trend and racism within the police. Simon Neumeyer came to a café in Düsseldorf to talk about it. You want police at the age of 22: smart, young, open. Until 2017, he was with the police. Then he was right not to be able to bear the incidents of his education in Saxony. In October of last year, he aired excerpts from a public conversation between police students.

"We are from Cottbus and not from Ghana, we hate all Africans", for example. Or: "A lot of checks in the city because of the IS, I had to eat two Mettbrötchen and drink two Pils to prove that I am not a Muslim." The coaches also made judicious comments, explains Neumeyer. "There was a sentence like this:" Be careful, you must now learn to shoot well because we have so many guests in Germany. "

Neumeyer tried to resist. The consequence was the exclusion. "I usually be open to racist and xenophobic comments," he says. "That's why I was ousted from the group, for example, I had no more partner in the sport."

Only when he became public did the leaders react. A classmate had to leave, an involved colleague had already been fired. The allegations against trainers but, according to the Saxon police, had not been confirmed. "In the police, there is an understanding and an attitude that you prefer not to bring the problems to the outside," says criminologist Singelnstein. "That means trying to sweep it partially under the rug."

But do not you ask the police too much? Speaking with the GoP union, it is said that the treatment of errors must actually be improved. But there is no structural problem. In addition, violence against police officers is increasing. It was essential to have colleagues on the ground.

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Dieter Müller from Bautzen also confirms this: it is essential to reinforce each other. Although he is himself a victim of intimidation. Müller, a white shirt, jeans, was a police officer in Lower Saxony, and then came across a supervisor who did not like the critical questions. "In the end, there was no room for me in this area."

But the 60-year-old man has not turned his back on the system. He studied law instead and became a professor at Saxon Police College. Since then, he has trained more than 2,500 commissioners. He knows that work is often difficult and creates a particular cohesion. "Riot police sometimes only have one weekend a month." However, the public is often not appreciated, Müller said.

All this does not justify violations of the law. On the contrary, if law enforcement officers were no longer considered as such, they would also suffer from the understanding of each citizen's democracy. "The negative consequences could be that you face a closed unit that is not critical and can not learn from its own mistakes and needs," Müller warns. "This means that I am facing a solid block that may no longer be in accordance with the rule of law."

A dangerous situation, especially as the police become more and more powerful. For example, laws are now being enacted in the federal states, giving more powers to civil servants and limiting the rights of citizens.

In Bavaria, for example, the police are now allowed to place people in custody when the threat is "imminent" – not for 14 days, but three months. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the black-yellow coalition abolished the labeling obligation of civil servants. As a result, citizens can no longer identify them in action.

Institutions that help eliminate misconceptions and support critical minds are all the more important. And from the outside. The case of Sandra Steffens is the best example. Although the Cologne prosecutor's office has now resumed criminal prosecution against Steffens colleagues, that she had initially hired quickly. Despite two clear judgments, it has also been revised.

According to criminologist Singelnstein, prosecution is often part of the spiritual structure of the army corps. For example, police investigations would be interrupted much more often than proceedings against non-police officers. In 2015, for example, only 1.36% of the 4,280 accused were charged with assault. In 2017, it was just under two percent. On the other hand, the general charge rate is much higher – around 20%.

What is missing, it is apparently an independent external investigative authority. According to a study by the German Institute of Human Rights in 2017, Germany is lagging behind countries like Britain or Denmark. Although there are now police officers in many federal states, they do not have their own investigative powers and staff.

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In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, the local representative with two employees is responsible for 50,000 civil servants. Singelnstein also calls on states to reform. "I think it would be wise to create an independent body similar to the data protection delegates."

And something else seems to need reform: education. With Steffens, only one subjectively evaluated internship decided on his professional life. But in NRW's Ministry of the Interior, you see no problem. We must avoid "that an insufficient performance in practice is offset by a good performance in theory", says one on demand.

"At a proper examination, it would be better to have objective standards and that many people make such a decision," says police professor Müller. Otherwise, you open the door arbitrarily. After all, the police are not all strong enough to follow the path of Steffens or Neumeyer. And all would not, like Steffens, after about 80,000 euros escaped the salary. She got involved because she wanted to become a policeman, a good policewoman. She was successful again – general note: very good.

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