Berlin's local press has been full of talk of unrest in the police force in recent days, with accusations being levelled against recruits from Arabic families. But the police chiefs say that the rumours are being fuelled by racism.
A claim by the German Police Union on Wednesday that Berlin's police force has been infiltrated by organized crime was just the latest in a drip drip of controversy to hit the capital's law enforcement over the past few days.
Speaking to broadcaster ZDF, German Police Union spokesman Bodo Pfalzgraf said that there were "clear indications" that Arabic mafia families had developed a strategy of getting inside the police force.
"They keep certain family members away from crime so that they have a clean record,” he said. These families members then apply to the police training college in Spandau.
“Of course they have a very immediate interest in knowing what the state is thinking and when searches will take place,” Pfalzgraf said.
For several days now the Berlin media has been abuzz with rumours that Arabic "clans" have been putting family members into the police force.
On November 2nd, Berlin daily newspaper der Tagesspiegel published an anonymous letter addressed to Berlin police chief Klaus Kandt. The letter, claiming to be from a long-serving member of the city's detective branch, claimed that "recruits from these large families are accepted in the police despite the fact they have criminal records."
The accusations appeared to harden when tabloid B.Z. reported on Wednesday that a 20-year-old intern had been arrested at a police headquarters after she copied secret manhunt photos and sent them via WhatsApp. The young woman, who has Arabic roots, is now being investigated for revealing state secrets.
Along with claims that criminal gangs have wheedled their way into the police, local media have been reporting on a chaotic environment in the Berlin police academy and a rise in homophobia, anti-Semitism and sexism in the force. Recruits from migrant families have been thumbed as culprits in all the reports.
The anonymous letter to Kandt said that “when a woman is no longer accepted as a superior because she is a woman, when trainees refuse to go into a swimming pool because an 'unclean' woman could have swum there, then tolerance and a welcoming culture have to stop.”
Tagesspiegel claims to have spoken to officers in several branches of the Berlin police who agree that recruits from migrant backgrounds are making the police more sexist and anti-Semitic.
But Berlin's police chiefs have come out fighting against the accusations.
At a special sitting of the domestic affairs committee of the Berlin senate on Wednesday, Klaus Kandt said that claims of infiltration were "categorically false."
"Nobody who has made complaints has presented any proof," he said.
Kandt has also refuted in strong terms the accusations made in the anonymous letter.
“For me this letter amounts to nothing more than unfounded, defamatory and possibly also illegal comments,” he said in quotes given to Tagesspiegel.
The police chief has been actively seeking to widen recruitment into the force to include more people with a migrant background. He has insinuated that the growth in recruits from ethnic minorities had brought racist opinions to the fore among some of their German colleagues.
Kandt's boss, the Berlin interior minister Andreas Geisel said on Wednesday that he had no doubt about the integrity of recruits from migrant backgrounds. He accused elements within the police force of stoking racism, adding that "we won't tolerate this."
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