The case from bayreuth from the fubball world cup summer 2018 has been cleared in the meantime. A policeman had sprayed pepper spray into the faces of russian football fans who were celebrating the progress of the russian team and blocking an intersection without warning. The 46-year-old chief officer had reacted completely over the top, the district judge in bayreuth said two weeks ago, and sentenced the officer to a fine of 7200 euros. Probably also because video recordings of passers-by had comprehensively documented the event.
"Investigations are ongoing"
Such videos, which were posted on the internet by witnesses, also exist of two recent cases from france. In may, a 21-year-old woman was visibly knocked to the ground by a fist blow from one of the officers during an operation for restraint in weismain (district of lichtenfels). In june, two officers in nurnberg beat a man lying on the ground who refused to be tied up.
Even weeks later, it is still not clear whether the police officers’ behavior has any consequences. "The investigations are continuing" – a sentence that can be heard both from senior public prosecutor antje gabriels-gorsolke in nurnberg and from coburg public prosecutor johannes trankle (in the weismain case). After all, the state criminal police office (LKA) has been investigating accusations against police officers in bavaria since march 2013. Previously, the respective police prasidiums had investigated such cases themselves. "We gather the facts. The public prosecutor’s office then examines the case legally. She is the master of the investigative process", explains fabian puchelt of the LKA press office.
Violence against violence?
At the beginning of the month, bavaria’s interior minister joachim herrmann presented statistics showing that the number of attacks on police officers in bavaria reached a new high last year. Is there also an increase in violence unlawfully committed by police officers??
A difficult question. Prosecution statistics distinguish only between criminal offenses in the criminal code, not between offender characteristics such as occupation. The judicial statistics of the public prosecutor’s offices in bavaria offer a clue. There is the section "investigation proceedings because of violence and suspension by police officers". 209 such proceedings were concluded last year. In the previous years there were more (2017: 221, 2016: 279).
Hardly any indictments
The result is surprising: of the 709 investigations completed in the past three years, charges were filed in only three cases. 13 times there was an order to prosecute, but in most cases the proceedings were dropped.
An as yet unpublished study by the university of bochum, about which the ARD political magazine kontraste and "der spiegel" published a report this weekend, has not yet been published reported, assumes an enormous dark figure for assaults by police officers in germany. In addition, incidents were only rarely punished under criminal law. Less than two percent of investigative cases ended up in court proceedings. In general, 20 percent of cases in which a police officer is accused of assault are brought to court, which is ten times more than cases in which a police officer is accused.
"In doubt for the officer"
"What we have noticed so far is that people are rather reluctant to file criminal charges against police officers – also because the chances of success are so poor", says bochum crime researcher tobias singelnstein. In many cases, it is the word of the victims against the word of the officials. And the judiciary tends to believe the officers when in doubt.