Berlin - Is the Polizei being racist when checking suspects in Görlitzer Park and other areas? Andreas Geisel (SPD), the city-state's interior minister, thinks so and he's making some fellow politicians unhappy.
"I hear the reports from people with a different skin colour who say they are stopped more often," the politican told local public broadcaster RBB. If racial profiling is the reason behind the stops, it's not OK and something should be done, he said. "Berlin police strictly deny this but I'm realistic enough to see that it exists."
While some residents rant about dealers in the park, others continually complain that people of colour are being unfairly singled out. People repeatedly stopped by police also regularly accuse the police of profiling. Police brass have always rejected the accusations.
Burkhard Dregger (CDU), the head of the CDU group in the Berlin parliament, isn't happy.
Racial profiling is forbidden
"How can the interior senator accuse the Berlin police of general and undifferentiated racism? How can Geisel claim that in Görlitzer Park people are only searched by the police because of their appearance?" Dregger said. "In Europe's No. 1 drug hotspot Görlitzer Park, people are searched who are suspected of drug dealing. Either the senator doesn't know the facts or he's just another among the phalanx of anti-police reality deniers."
Geisel even sparked criticism among his own party.
"We're talking about people actively involved in drug trafficking. Nationality and origin play no role in police action," said Tom Schreiber, deputy leader of the Berlin SPD party. "The officers on the ground can use their professional and real-life experience to make a wise, legally valid assessment."
The spat comes on the heel of a press event held last Friday by Geisel in Görlitzer Park.
"Berlin police officers aren't allowed to use racial profiling. And in training, we place great importance on ensuring that it doesn't happen. Of course, I know that there are repeated incidents anyway and that people who look different from people who are commonly born in Germany report that they are stopped more often. That's a phenomenon we absolutely have to fight," he said in the Kreuzberg park.
Most of the dealers arrested in Görlitzer Park last year came from Africa and were refugees who had been ordered to leave the country. According to police, 24.4 per cent came from Gambia and 18.5 per cent from Guinea, while 12.2 per cent came from Tunisia, 7.3 per cent from Morocco, 9.8 per cent from Algeria, 4.9 per cent from Guinea-Bissau, and 2.4 percent each from Nigeria, Somalia, Mali and Libya.
But not everyone is from Africa. Afghan suspects accounted for 4.9 per cent of the arrests while suspects from Syria, Montenegro and Turkey accounted for 2.4 per cent.
"Here in Görlitzer Park, we take action against dealers because they deal, not because they come from Guinea or look like it," Geisel said. "If it is said that we should not fight crime because that would be racist, I disagree. Crime must be tackled - regardless which country the perpetrator comes from."