Uwe Reichel-Offermann
Preventing right-wing extremist tendencies in the police force
Tasks and objectives of the new staff unit at the Ministry of the Interior.
Ministry of the Interior of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia

Right-wing extremist tendencies in security agencies were comprehensively documented for the first time in October 2020 in the situation report "Right-wing extremists in security agencies" by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Even if the number of incidents is low in relation to the total number of employees, they still affect the good reputation and work of the security authorities. Society must be able to rely on the fact that the employees of the security authorities, who have extensive powers, are unquestionably committed to the free and democratic basic order.

In order to counteract such tendencies in the police in North Rhine-Westphalia, extremism officers were appointed in all police authorities in May 2020. However, the incidents involving right-wing extremist chat groups in Essen-Mülheim prompted Interior Minister Herbert Reul to go one step further. On October 15, 2020, Uwe Reichel-Offermann, the previous deputy head of the North Rhine-Westphalia Office for the Protection of the Constitution, was appointed as a special commissioner for "Right-wing extremist tendencies in the North Rhine-Westphalian police" and a staff unit was set up in the Ministry of the Interior.

The special commissioner and the staff unit are tasked with developing an action plan for the early detection, countering and prevention of right-wing extremist tendencies in the NRW police force.

In a first step, an extended state situation report on xenophobic, racist and right-wing extremist incidents in the NRW police between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2020 will be drawn up.

This report will take into account all cases recorded in the police authorities that have reached the threshold for disciplinary or employment law proceedings. Here, types of action, procedural results and organizational and socio-structural data are examined in detail.

The identification of factors influencing the emergence of right-wing extremist attitudes or behaviour is supported by two scientific surveys: This is done through expert interviews and so-called participant observations.

The aims of the expert interviews are to gain insights into the emergence, toleration and acceptance of xenophobic, racist and right-wing extremist tendencies in the NRW police force as well as the development of protective factors. Experts from a wide range of fields have dealt with this issue in practice and research, so that we can benefit from their knowledge. The interviews conducted will provide a large number of starting points for the further development of measures. The experts come from the following areas

  • Management of police authorities,
  • police management at all levels,
  • police officers,
  • staff representatives,
  • extremism officers,
  • police commissioners,
  • social contacts,
  • police chaplaincy,
  • Unions,
  • Internal politics,
  • NGOs,
  • Science,
  • North Rhine-Westphalia University of Police and Public Administration,
  • State Office for Police Training, Further Training and Personnel Affairs and
  • German Police University.

The participant observation project also aims to gain insights into the emergence, toleration and acceptance of xenophobic, racist and right-wing extremist tendencies in the NRW police force and the development of protective factors. However, its central aim is to involve a large number of NRW police employees. These surveys are not used to talk about police officers, but to talk to them. In this way, they are involved in the current discussion. Ultimately, they are the experts in the field and have the best insight into the processes that can lead to the emergence of such tendencies.

The participant observations are carried out in selected district police authorities in all areas of responsibility of the NRW police in the basic organizational units. It goes without saying that the anonymity of the persons involved will be protected during the participant observation.

In addition to the scientific surveys, the previous early detection measures, the selection process and the content of the training and further education will be reviewed and further developed with regard to the communication of values, education and awareness-raising. Furthermore, the current state of scientific research will be taken into account for the recommendations to be developed. Last but not least, we want to benefit from the experiences of other federal states.

After the end of the data collection and on the basis of a preliminary analysis, the available results will be fed back in a reflection phase with key stakeholders, including representatives of the police department of the NRW Ministry of the Interior, the heads of authorities and police leadership, police unions, academia and NGOs.

If immediate measures arise and are offered in the ongoing process, these will already be tackled in coordination with the police department of the NRW Ministry of the Interior during the process.

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