One of them sent a photo of the Auschwitz death camp, signature: “This is a hostel for Jews.” Another placed a copulating male in a photo of the corpse of a drowned refugee child. Still other participants in the chats acknowledged the inhumane programs with smileys and like thumbs. And almost all of them were police officers.
“We’re dealing with images that take your breath away,” says Jerzy Montag. On Monday, the ex-Greens member described examples from Hessian law enforcement chat groups that were blown up a year ago to brutally expose the scale of the country’s police scandal. So far, 47 such chat groups have been discovered, involving 136 police officers, Montag reported as vice chair of a committee of experts charged with drawing conclusions from the Hessian affair about threatening emails, illegal data queries and right-wing extremist conversations.
In its final report, which has now been submitted, the commission describes tendencies in the police to downplay such cases of group-related enmity and right-wing extremism – including by their superiors – as “worrying”. The experts are calling for reforms and have formulated 58 individual recommendations that they want to see implemented quickly. “A critical moment has been reached for the police in Hesse,” said the commission’s chairman, Cologne constitutional lawyer Angelika Nussberger, who will be a judge at the European Court of Human Rights until 2020. The country must “set an example”.
Commission: stricter screening of police trainees
Hesse Minister of the Interior Peter Beuth (CDU) established the committee eleven months ago. Previously, investigations into right-wing threats against lawyer Seda Başay-Yıldız, comedian İdil Baydar and current left-wing federal leader Janine Wissler had rather accidentally exposed extremist chats between Hessian police officers. A suspected author of the threatening letter, referring to the extreme right-wing terrorist group, was arrested. He is not a police officer, but it is still unclear why the data of the threatened was requested into Hessian police computers before the emails were received.
Among other things, the experts recommend stricter screening of police candidates, for example by regularly examining the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution. They argue for more awareness among police officers about the fight against right-wing extremism and for changes to the disciplinary law to be able to punish extremist activities more severely and to encourage internal whistleblowers. Because among the police officers who had access to the far-right chats, according to Montag, none contradicted or even informed an executive.