Racism in the German police - Horst Seehofer is wrong

With his talk of a few bad apples, interior minister Horst Seehofer refuses to see any signs of structural racism and far-right extremism in the police. His defensiveness could have fatal consequences.

German interior minister Horst Seehofer: systemic what?
German interior minister Horst Seehofer: systemic what?imago images/Metodi Popow

Berlin-"Continuity in error is the worst thing," said Horst Seehofer on Tuesday while he was presenting a "situation report" on suspected far-right extremism and racism in Germany's security services.

What's weird is that the interior minister seems to have no desire to act in accordance with his own guiding principle.

According to Seehofer, rightwing extremism should be regarded as a problem in society as a whole. While he's right about that, in saying it he is neglecting his responsibility as interior minister by refusing to take a proper look at a highly sensitive issue in Germany society.

The good news is that the number of verifiable cases of far-right extremism among the German police is relatively low. It is also reassuring that the situation report has not yet been completed. The cases of rightwing extremist activity that came to light in the last few weeks weren't covered by the current investigation.

What is irritating, however, is the minister's conclusion that the relatively small number of suspected cases is proof that far-right extremism is not a structural problem in the police force . Because even if the vast majority of officers are firmly grounded in the values of the German constitution, the police is an institution in which the misconduct of a  few individuals cannot be compensated for by the righteousness of the many without causing harm to third parties.

Seehofer's talk about a few bad apples and his downplaying of an obvious problem by pointing to poorly paid, overworked police officers could have deadly consequences.  His approach gives the impression that rightwing extremism in the police is somehow justified. As if racist, extremist officers were collateral damage in a dysfunctional system.

A system that politicians are paid to improve, by the way.

Adapted from the original German for Berliner Zeitung English Edition by Maurice Frank