“Seehofer prevents further investigation”

Photos of swastikas, Adolf Hitler, a montage of images with a refugee in a gas chamber: a far-right chat group of police officers was unmasked in North Rhine-Westphalia. Chillreport spoke about it with police investigator Rafael Behr.

During a raid on North Rhine-Westphalia that morning, about 200 police officers attacked a group of colleagues: 34 police stations and private apartments were searched, Disciplinary proceedings are now pending against 29 officials and they were suspended.

Police from Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Oberhausen, Moers and Selm are said to have shared photos of Adolf Hitler, swastikas and Reich war flags, as well as the montage of a refugee in the gas chamber of a concentration camp in WhatsApp groups.

Chillreport: Mr Behr, are you surprised by this new case of right-wing extremism among police officers?

Rafael Behr: No, that doesn’t surprise me at all. Already after becoming known extreme right-wing activities at the Hessian police I thought that many police chiefs are currently sleeping badly. It’s only a matter of time before something like that pops up again.

What do you think is behind such chat groups?

There are also clearly right-wing attitudes among police officers. But also a certain incentive to exceed limits, for example to drive faster than allowed or to use more force than necessary. Or to speak with extreme right-wing stories. Unfortunately, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer prevents us from finding out more precisely. The police, the police unions and the politician are now talking about individual cases again. You don’t dare to look at the structural dimension behind it, but with the police everything is structure!

Rafael Behr, Born 1958, is a professor of police science. He teaches criminology and sociology at the College of Applied Sciences of the Police Academy in Hamburg. He also heads the Culture and Safety research center. From 1975 to 1990, Behr worked as a police officer in the Hessian riot police and at the police headquarters in Frankfurt am Main.

What do you mean?

Police officers do not act as private individuals, but are integrated in an organization, a service structure. That is why it would be so important to find out in which situations and contexts the right thinking spreads among the police.

What role does the social climate play?

Of course, police officers notice when the limits of what can be said are pushed further and further to the right. For example, if AfD boss Alexander Gauland describes the Nazi era as “bird shit in history”, then that also has consequences for the police, and if there is also arrogance …

Are civil servants like the 29 who are now suspended in NRW a danger to the population?

Now, of course, fears arise, especially in the migrant community and the People of Color (PoC), who are already suffering from “racial profiling” and police brutality. However, racist attitudes expressed in such chats do not automatically translate into racist behavior. I like to remind you of Michel Friedman’s bodyguard.

The journalist and former deputy chairman of the Jewish community in Frankfurt am Main?

Friedman had two bodyguards from the Frankfurt police headquarters. Nazi devotional objects were found in one of the cupboards. Friedman never felt that the man had righteous ideas or anything against Jews. When exposed, Friedman was amazed. But I understand the fears that are now emerging, and I don’t want to downplay the problem.

And what must happen within the police force to prevent right-wing extremist activities?

We must be able to let police officers speak, i.e. create a culture where whistleblowing does not lead to bullying and exclusion from the group. That is the worst that can happen to the police, even more so with the uniforms than with the criminal police.

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