Friendly and consistent
For the new Head of Police Department 4 at the Ministry of the Interior, Gerrit Weber, the police must embody 5 x D - remain democratically resilient, assertive and service-oriented, as well as becoming more diverse and digital.
Streife editorial team

Interview with Gerrit Weber

Mr. Weber, let's get straight into it. Ratingen. Is it possible to prevent such vile attacks on the police and fire department?

Weber: Unfortunately not. The police and fire department are constantly confronted with unexpected situations. The Ratingen case was a terrible reminder of this: We are "first responders" together, i.e. the ones who are first on the scene and have to act. We are in the danger zone together.

See Ratingen, some operations are literally a matter of life and death. What can be done to minimize the dangers for the emergency services?

Weber: The blue light family is well-rehearsed, works hand in hand across the country and proves itself hundreds of times every day on the road in joint operations such as traffic accidents or house fires. The most important thing is that the teams can rely on each other, no matter what uniform they are wearing. This requires close coordination and standardized processes. And there is always one important principle: averting danger before prosecution. First lives are saved, only then is a possible perpetrator searched for.

These are so-called unwritten laws that all police officers and firefighters should have in their blood. Is it possible to practise and train this and thus improve it even further, as we did during the major exercise in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock?

Weber: The more we talk to each other, the more often we practise together, the better we know each other, the better it is for the professional management of operations. This practical form of training strengthens cooperation between the police and emergency services in real operations. I would therefore be delighted if other district police authorities were to follow the good example set by Bielefeld Police Headquarters.

Over-local situations are a challenge.

Weber: Indeed. If, for example, there is a shooting rampage in a school, the police command jumps from the local district police authority to the so-called § 4 authority, i.e. one of the six large police headquarters. That's why I would like to invite the people in charge of the local fire departments to come along to a service meeting at the permanent headquarters.

Where is it already going well?

Weber: It's often going very well locally. The local chiefs of police and fire departments usually know each other very well. And there are areas where cooperation is already super close. For example, our special units regularly train together with the Analytical Task Forces (ATF) of the professional fire departments in Dortmund, Essen and Cologne. This mainly involves combating CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) hazards. Or: For some years now, our police helicopter squadron has been supporting the fire department during large forest and bush fires. We have specially retrofitted our police helicopters with Bambi buckets for transporting large quantities of extinguishing water.

You are describing everyday operations where a police presence is visible. Despite the recruitment of 3,000 new trainees every year, you are closing stations in rural areas in particular and transferring tasks to the network. Are the police withdrawing from the countryside?

Weber: No, not at all. We are still present throughout the country - in the big cities as well as in rural areas. However, it is not primarily the number of police stations that is important for people's safety, but the number of police officers. And we have recently seen measurable growth in this area. It is important that as many officers as possible are on the road in patrol cars and are therefore visible to the public, even in rural areas. This creates security.

This is a small aspect that relates to practical police work on the ground. Where do you draw the broad lines, where do you want to create visible change?

Weber: The police always have to earn respect on the street. Unfortunately, that is the case. Every operation is now recorded on cell phones and posted online. We have to learn to deal with this. In addition, training and operational training must also include dealing with mentally conspicuous people.

And we must become more digital and more diverse, while remaining democratically resilient, assertive and service-oriented. I would like to use these 5 Ds as a guide with my team. The most important thing is that we must remain a democratic police force. That is our compass. Police officers must be democrats out of deep conviction and with all their heart. After all, they are the ones who defend our constitutional state.

I know that day-to-day work on the streets is often tough and sometimes frustrating. And in some areas of crime, there is a high proportion of offenders who do not have a German passport. That is a real challenge. Nevertheless, I expect police officers to be resilient, not to generalize, but to take a differentiated view of things. And that they always keep Art. 1 Para. 1 of the German Basic Law in mind: "Human dignity is inviolable." This sentence, "Human dignity is inviolable", naturally also applies to homeless people, refugees and trans people.

Diverse and digital, you want to give the police a further boost.

Weber: One of the major tasks is to better reflect the reality of life in our society in the police force. For example, we need more women. Women make up just under a third of law enforcement officers and only a fifth of managers. I say quite clearly: there is still room for improvement. To achieve this, we need to further improve the compatibility of family and career. We also want to recruit even more colleagues with a migration background in the future.

And the NRW police force absolutely needs to become even more digital. The digitalization of our everyday lives is developing so rapidly that we have to be careful not to be left behind by technological developments. Criminal activities are increasingly taking place online. As the criminal investigation department, we have to adapt to this, including when it comes to handling mass data. And if cars are going to be driving computers in the future, then we as traffic police will have to find an answer to this.

And your last two Ds?

Weber: Assertiveness and service are part of the DNA of the police. We have to show strength where necessary. The Minister's zero-tolerance policy towards lawbreakers applies here. The police must show boundaries, especially towards people who repeatedly flout the law or even fight against our free and democratic basic order.

The former Prussian Minister of the Interior from Herford already formulated that the police are service providers for citizens, which I still like today: "The police - your friend and helper!". I adapt this slogan by Carl Severing a little to our circumstances: We should be friendly as a rule, but consistent when we have to be.

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