Up to 29 German police officers have been suspended from duty while their involvement in five far-right chat groups, one of which contained images of Adolf Hitler and a fictional refugee on his way to a gas chamber. The Minister of the Interior of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (west), Herbert Reul, reported on the investigations directed against agents of that federal state. Most of those investigated – 25 police officers – are from the Essen city department.
All have been temporarily suspended from service; 14 of them have been permanently removed from the police force. Against all suspects disciplinary procedure has been opened, reported Reul, from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
The head of the Interior of the “Land” described what happened as “an embarrassment for the police” and made it clear that, especially as regards the Essen officers, the case cannot be approached as an “isolated issue”, but must investigate the existence of a “possible network” in that department. Reul also added that among the contents of the chats 126 photos were found clearly far-right content, such as those mentioned with images of Hitler and the refugee, as well as Nazi symbols, swastika and flags of the Nazi Reich.
Half of the suspended police officers actively participated in chats, posting images and comments, while the rest accessed or read the contents. One of the groups was created in 2013 and the other in 2015, the peak year in the migration crisis derived from the Syrian conflict, in which Germany received around one million refugees.
The plot was confirmed in some records made this morning, where they were confiscated several mobile phones of the suspected officers, all linked to that of a 32-year-old officer who had been observed for some time.
The case of North Rhine-Westphalia follows another plot for alleged links between the police and the extreme right revealed in the neighboring state of Hesse. His chief of police, Udo Münch, resigned when it was discovered that broadcast from police computers threats against leftist politicians and people in public life of foreign origin or recognized for their commitment to refugees.
In Bavaria (south) a group of police chats was also located that propagated Islamophobic slogans. In the neighboring state of Baden-Württemberg, proceedings were opened against seven policemen who also exchanged far-right messages in a chat.
These cases have originated successive pronouncements, from the leftist ranks and organizations against xenophobia, demanding an in-depth investigation on racism among police forces. Until now, the Interior Ministry of Angela Merkel’s government had rejected these proposals on the grounds that they were isolated cases.
The Minister of Justice, Christine Lambrecht, of the Social Democratic Party, now demanded absolute clarification of what was detected in North Rhine-Westphalia and the possible “extreme right tendencies” among the police force in that region.