Firing by police claims 10 lives per year in Germany, academic says

Firing by police claims 10 lives per year in Germany, academic says

Hinting at institutional racism, sociology professor says German police have become increasingly harsh in dealing with protesters

By Gulcin Kazan Doger

ISTANBUL (AA) – The German police have become increasingly harsh in dealing with protesters, and firing by police claims at least 10 lives on average per year in Germany, an academic said on Tuesday.

“In the 1960s, the intervention by German police in protests can be seen as controlling mass demonstrations. While the student protests in the 1960s were dealt with harshly and the threshold for intervention was low, the turning point was the Brokdorf decision in 1985, issued by the Federal Constitutional Court, which provided stronger protection for the right to assemble.

“However, since the 2000s, we have witnessed that the police have become increasingly militarized and have taken stricter measures, especially against protests identified as Leftist,” Daniela Hunold, a professor of sociology with a focus on police research, told Anadolu.

The professor recounted the incident in which an African asylum seeker, Oury Jalloh, considered a symbol of racist police violence in Germany, lost his life.

“In 2005, Jalloh died in a fire in his cell while in police custody. Initially, the police claimed that Jalloh committed suicide by setting himself on fire, but many independent experts state that this was not possible because he was handcuffed to the bed,” she said.

Hunold also mentioned the incident in August 2022, where a 16-year-old mentally disturbed Senegalese refugee named Muhamed D. was killed by police with a machine gun in Dortmund, Germany.


- ‘Institutional racism’

Hunold called the racism problem in German police “institutional racism.”

“Police use terms like 'Sudlander' (Southerner), but I believe this racist language is also a manifestation of institutional racism. Therefore, we need to understand that racist practices in Germany are primarily a result of institutional racism,” she added.

She further said that recent research indicated that Muslims face more negative treatment from police, particularly in instances where young individuals perceived as Black or Muslim undergo more frequent identity checks and questioning.

Hunold mentioned that there is no official data on the number of people who have lost their lives due to racist police violence in Germany in recent years.

According to data on deaths caused by police, the majority of individuals shot by the police remain unidentified, and the known names disproportionately belong to non-German speakers, she said, adding: “On average, 10 people die each year in Germany from police gunfire.”

Hunold also said that approximately 95% of the cases against police officers are typically dismissed. This high rate is primarily due to the "code of silence" within police ranks and the close ties between the prosecutor's office and the police. There is no overarching law that offers general protection to police officers.

“Studies show that police officers with immigrant backgrounds are often subject to jokes related to their origins. Moreover, interviewed police officers with immigrant backgrounds state that they are subjected to closer scrutiny by their superiors compared to their colleagues.

“These officers are sometimes exposed to racist language in their interactions with citizens. Although there have been improvements in the recruitment of police officers with immigrant backgrounds in Germany, we are still far from where we want to be regarding the treatment of diversity within the institution,” she concluded.

*Writing by Esra Tekin in Istanbul



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