The best way to get people to stop thinking there are extremists within the police are to not have extremists within the police (that's Geisel on the left and Slowik on the right).
Photo: dpa/Wolfgang Kumm

Berlin - Berlin Interior Minister Andreas Geisel (SPD) and Police President Barbara Slowik on Wednesday presented an 11-point plan for weeding out police officers with extremist tendencies during recruiting, training and when already on the force. The plan will initially be used with police officers but will later be expanded to the fire department and to constitution protection investigators.

Every new hire must have a clean record with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the main guard against far right and other extremist activities. Officials will regularly review any new entries into the file of officers already on the force, Geisel and Slowik said during a press conference.

Some 33 police officers have been investigated since 2017 for extremist activity, such as raising a right arm in a Nazi salute or yelling “Sieg Heil”, with four of the disciplinary investigations aimed at removing the officers from the force. With a total 25,000 officers and employees, Geisel said that figure wasn’t remarkable.

“But every case is one too many,” he said.

A five-level “traffic light” warning system will be used to categorise the extremist activities of officers, with blue giving the all-clear. “We assume that that applies to 99.9 per cent of all Berlin police officers,” Geisel said. Should the light turn orange or red for any cop, they could lose their jobs. Every case must be investigated individually, the pair said.

The system still needs to be passed into law and Geisel hopes to present draft legislation later this fall. A new position would be created to oversee the plan though it remains unclear under whose authority the position will fall.

The goal of the plan can only be to further strengthen the resistance to rightwing extremist forces

Andreas Geisel

The plan will also include an anonymous web portal for reporting extremist activities, similar to a system introduced in 2015 to uncover corruption that Geisel said has proven to be a success.

The scheme is designed to counter all extremist and anti-democratic activities, though Tuesday’s presentation focused on rightwing extremism. “The goal of the plan can only be to further strengthen the resistance to rightwing extremist forces and provide regular training,” Slowik said, downplaying the presence of rightwing extremism on the force.

“Even when almost everyone has both feet firmly on the ground of free, democratic rule, there are still individuals who discredit the entire profession and allow entire subpopulations to at least question the legal authority of the police,” she said.

Two other key points are listed in the plan are “supervision” and the “changing work environment”.

Leadership in especially tough areas are to be offered tighter supervision, a form of cooperative consultation aimed at professional development by giving cops an opportunity to reflect on their activities and the quality of their work.

The plan also hopes to counter extremist tendencies sparked by officers repeatedly interacting with specific sectors of the underworld, such as drug dealers or Berlin’s criminal clans - which can lead to a skewed worldview. Transferring officers among departments could help counter frequent interactions.

A semi-annual study to review the police’s attitudes, values and morale is also part of the plan.

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