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Police Academy Professor: “Only Perceptions have Shifted”

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In 1998, Rafael Behr worked as the head of a police task force or work group (Dienstgruppenleiter). After fifteen years of work as a policeman, he became a professor at Hamburg’s police academy (Hochschule der Polizei). This information, provided by Behr himself, in an article for Germany’s weekly DIE ZEIT, doesn’t give me an exact idea of how long ago he left the active police service.

At the moment we begin to change ourselves, the world around us changes, too. Not just seemingly, but really, his website at the academy (currently being relaunched) says. Behr’s field of work at the academy is sociology and coaching.

Things hadn’t become tougher for the police, Behr believes – or rather, “I can’t quite believe the complaints that things were getting worse” (Ich kann das Klagen der Polizei in Deutschland, dass alles schlimmer werde, nicht so recht glauben). “Police is neither defenceless, nor are things getting worse. But above all, there isn’t more violence aimed at the police. Only perceptions have shifted” (Polizisten sind weder wehrlos, noch wird alles immer schlimmer. Vor allem gibt es nicht mehr Gewalt gegen Beamte. Es hat sich lediglich die Wahrnehmung verschoben).

Expectations to the police had become more diverse, from a time somewhere in the late 1980s, Behr suggests. After all, police staff had to show empathy with victims, a sense of justice, communication skills, etc.. Violence, strangely, had been blinded out in that idealised new concept. When police staff happened on people with few or no prospects in life (resignierte und aussichtslose Lebensperspektiven), they were ill-prepared for such encounters. After all, resignation and exclusion [from society] were frequently combined with aggression, and police staff was usually recruited from the middle class, not from the class where aggression was a more frequent phenomenon.

Violence hadn’t increased, argues Behr, quoting the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony. At times, violence was even decreasing. Rather than violence, it was insubordination which was on the rise, and where police staff wasn’t well-prepared. The use of the term “violence” had become inflationary.

It’s probably a matter of definition. According to German news magazine DER SPIEGEL (November 2010), the number of police seriously injured on duty rose by 60 per cent during the previous five years. (Seriously injured, of course, may be a matter of definition, too.) Closer to home, Verden’s nightlife has certainly changed, and the patrolman who was knived here in summer 2009 was a first-night in our  small town.

I agree with his latter point – violence has been surrounded with taboos, to a silly degree. When even boxing becomes a “no” in “good society”, it’s no wonder that you can’t make violence a topic. Addressing it seems to be about as worldly innocent as asking Pope Benedict to discuss the benefits of buggery on television. And just as bad, addressing the former matter in an open-minded way may discredit you, just as addressing the latter one would discredit the Pope.

But that’s probably the only issue where I might agree with Behr. Let’s address a police person’s realities. One of these realities is that police staff bear guns. If someone approaches you as a police person, as happened on the Bremen Freimarkt last month, to adorn his or her face with lipstick colors (it seems to be a frequent practice), you better don’t carry a gun at all. To let unknown people come that close to you won’t be advisable otherwise. And frankly, just as these people wouldn’t paint the face of a carousel owner’s or a supermarket cashier’s face with lipstick, they shouldn’t be allowed to paint a police person’s face.

Behr replaces much of what is conveniently termed “violence” with “insubordination”. But that term, too, lacks definition. It seems to suggest that it is basically about some happy, occasional anarchism light. But that’s not the case, certainly not in Germany, which is still ticking like the corporate state it used to be. People who spit to the feet of police people (let alone into their faces) are angry, because a police person epitomises state power. The problem is that just as violence, power, too, is surrounded by taboos. German civil society, to quite a degree, and not only below the middle class, is unable to handle authority. Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer ´described stupidity this way, in 1943:

The fact that a stupid person is often stubborn should not deceive anyone into thinking he is independent.  In conversation with him it is felt that you are not dealing with the person himself, but with cliches, slogans, etc. that have gained dominance over him. (Daß der Dumme oft bockig ist, darf nicht darüber hinwegtäuschen, daß er nicht selbständig ist. Man spürt es geradezu im Gespräch mit ihm, daß man es gar nicht mit ihm selbst, mit ihm persönlich, sondern mit über ihn mächtig gewordenen Schlagworten, Parolen etc. zu tun hat.)

I’m not trying to judge if the classical American cop approach – common wisdom suggests that it includes no fun factor – can be attributed to an innate American feeling that you are free anyway, and that (as a member of the middle class, anywaqy) you practically cooperate with, rather than cowardly submit to a cop. In Germany, a citizen’s feelings are much more likely to be dominated by concepts of authority and powerlessness than elsewhere. And when a cop in Germany comes across as weak, the mice will play. It’s hardly a coincidence that many Germans  find the idea of Per Steinbrück for chancellor (that’s Germany’s political top job) not only tolerable, but even desirable. It’s hardly a coincidence that Helmut Schmidt, German chancellor from 1974 to 1982, and Wehrmacht lieutenant in the 1940s, endorsed Steinbrück last week, even before Steinbrück actually decided to apply for the job.

The times when a cop’s word “counted for something” are over, writes Behr. Those times wouldn’t come back, and a different society wasn’t in sight. “It is imperative to think police anew.”

Maybe. But before doing that, we must understand what our society – not just the “new underclass” – is actually like.

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Related

We, the Anti-Democrats, December 5, 2010

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Narziss und Schmollmund: “so was von gewalttätig”

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Thilo Sarrazin ist SPD-Mitglied, Ex-Finanzsenator Berlins und derzeit Bundesbanker. Die Bundesbank hat bei Vertragsabschluss einen diskreten Lebenswandel von ihm erwartet – jedenfalls lässt ihre Reaktion auf ein  Interview Sarrazins mit “Lettre International” im vorigen Jahr das vermuten – ein Interview, in dem der Mann erklärte, er müsse niemanden anerkennen, “der vom Staat lebt, diesen Staat ablehnt, für die Ausbildung seiner Kinder nicht vernünftig sorgt und ständig neue kleine Kopftuchmädchen produziert” .

burqas needn't be boring

burqas needn't be boring

Dass Sarrazins Ausführungen seinem jetzigen Posten nicht angemessen sind, mag durchaus sein. Dass er sich persönlich mit der oben zitierten Wortwahl diskreditiert, glaube ich selbst. Provokation kann zielführend sein – aber in diesem Fall drängt sich der Eindruck auf, dass vor einem Jahr ein – soeben erschienenes – Buch schon einmal vorab interessant gemacht werden sollte. Jedenfalls steht es auch Türken, deren Töchter kein Kopftuch tragen, allemal frei, sich gekränkt zu fühlen. Zumal dann, wenn sie Gemüsehändler sind (was ist eigentlich an dem Beruf so ehrenrührig?).

Man wird den Eindruck nicht los, dass Sarrazin sein Publikum nicht überzeugen, sondern im Buchhandel abmelken will – und dass er es gründlich verachtet. Manche von denen, die den Narzissten heute für seine “klaren Worte” lieben, haben ihn vor gar nicht langer Zeit  gehasst, als er ihnen vorrechnete, wie ein Hartz-IV-Empfänger für weniger als vier Euro am Tag in der Küche prima zaubern könne.

Jetzt “verdummen” wir also “auf natürlichem Wege”: durch Einwanderung aus der Türkei und dem Nahen Osten, in irgendeinem Zusammenhang. Vielleicht ist das rassistisch – wenn es bedeuten soll, dass die Einwanderer natürlicherweise dumm seien.
So scheint Sigmar Gabriel, Vorsitzender seiner und Sarrazins SPD und ihr oberster Schmollmund, das auch aufzufassen. Grundsätzlich wolle er sich mit Sarrazins Thesen zur Einwanderung ja “intellektuell” auseinandersetzen, sagt Gabriel. Aber sie seien teilweise “sprachlich so was von gewalttätig”, dass eine Auseinandersetzung schwer in Frage komme.

Das ist Quatsch. Wenn das rechtlich geht und sich in den entsprechenden Gremien oder Verbänden hinreichende Mehrheiten dafür finden, kann die SPD den Genossen Thilo natürlich rauswerfen. Aber sie soll nicht glauben, dass sie damit um eine Auseinandersetzung mit ihm herumkäme. Ein Großteil der Wählerinnen und Wähler erwartet eine solche Auseinandersetzung – nach Abzug jeder Menge sarrazinscher Effekthascherei, Pauschalbeleidigung und persönlicher Eitelkeit bleibt nämlich immer noch genug kritische Substanz übrig, über die gesprochen werden muss, um zu einer brauchbaren Beurteilung der deutschen Einwanderungs- und Integrationspolitik zu kommen – und insofern sind Sarrazins Provokationen, über deren Appetitlichkeit sich streiten lässt – ein Angebot. Das Buch muss sich deswegen keiner kaufen.

Und dann beginnt überhaupt erst die Arbeit. Aus der Beurteilung muss man ja auch praktische Schlüsse ziehen. Welcher Mitarbeiter eines Sozialamts oder einer BAGIS soll bestimmten Zeitgenossen – mit oder auch ohne Migrationshintergrund – die Leistungskürzungen präsentieren, die Sarrazin als Antwort auf Arbeits- oder Bildungsverweigerung vorschweben? Sarrazin hat – vermutlich und hoffentlich – Personenschutz. Der Sozialamtsmitarbeiter oder -leiter leider nicht. Und im Gegensatz zu Sarrazin wohnt er möglicherweise auch noch in der selben Nachbarschaft wie sein gemaßregelter Klient.

Man mag argumentieren, dass es zum Job eines Amtsmitarbeiters gehört, das auszuhalten. Aber in manchen Stadtteilen wird der Job dann allenfalls noch Bewerber finden, die nicht wissen, was sie tun.

Auch solche Probleme sind grundsätzlich – höchst wahrscheinlich – lösbar. Das Dumme ist nur, dass die meisten Debatten, auch Sarrazins, genau da enden, wo es konkret wird.

Zur Not mit einem Parteiausschluss.

Stand der Debatte: 27.08.2010

“Isn’t the Right to Work a Civil Right?”

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Lutz Brockmann is the first mayor who the union speaker can remember who managed to appear on each and every May Day rally in Verden to date. “Only you have managed that, Lutz.”

Good to know that our mayor got something done in his six first years in office.

Verden's mayor Lutz Brockmann greets the masses

Verden's mayor Lutz Brockmann greets the masses

Apart from Mr Brockmann himself who is a member of the social democrats (SPD), neither the SPD nor the “Left Party” had information booths at the rally. The (market)-liberal democrats (FDP) were obviously missing, too, and so were the conservative christian democrats (CDU). The Industrial Union of Metalworkers (IG Metall) had a booth there, and so had the Green Party.

At least one employer was there, too, but stayed on the sidelines. The union speaker didn’t invite him for a beer.

The rally was organized by the German Federation of Unions, the DGB. And it was a smart decision to let a green politician talk. Brigitte Pothmer is a member of the German federal parliament (Bundestag), and she was the one who could actually deliver something that deserves to be called a speech. She even had the nerves to tell her audience that Greece needed financial help, and that it would get financial help: “The longer it take, the more costly it will be.”

That said, just like everyone else, she kept talking about the rights of young people to be trained in the companies after finishing schools, about the right to earn good money for ones good work, the right to this, the right to that. No word about the need to do a good piece of work before getting paid, and no word about the duties to learn reading, writing, and to acquire a basic numeracy before being unleashed on innocent industrial units.

“Isn’t the right to work a civil right? Aren’t decent wages a civil right?”

Obvious answer: to prepare oneself for a good working life is a civil duty. To get the means to make it happen is a civil right. To dumb oneself down is not.

There was a lot of talk about the youngsters and their rights. Their right to oversleep wasn’t mentioned, but it was manifest yesterday morning. You saw many greyheads there on the rally, and I remember no0ne who might have been younger than thirty.

And that, even though they only started at eleven a.m., rather than at 10 a.m. as tradition would demand.

It would have been an even smaller congregation of early Christians if they hadn’t been joined by unionists from the neighbouring town of Achim, who organized a bicycle tour to Verden. Achim itself hasn’t seen a May Day rally this year.

Anyway, Mrs Pothmer made an entertaining talk. And the trade unionist, as usual, managed to produce at least one phrase which made no sense at all. Something like “more work for more money”.

Weather was nice, same as last year. It only started raining in the afternoon. And the Bratwurst was even better than last year.

German Intelligence infiltrates Taliban

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German military pistols are being sold on the black market in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Voice of Germany quotes Hamburg’s Northern German Broadcasting Service (NDR). In 2006, the German Defense Ministry shipped 10,000 old Walther-P1 pistols to the Afghan Interior Ministry to equip Afghan police and army. However, both the German government and the responsible US-led security team in Afghanistan reportedly failed to properly monitor the guns’ whereabouts, according to the report.

German Walther P-1 pistol (light version): Mind your head

German Walther P-1 pistol (light version): Mind your head

Typically German media coverage. They are always so negative. Instead of being proud of this achievement, they are worrying about… yes, about what? The Talibans’ chins and eyes?

If you have ever tried to fire a P-1 pistol at a cardboard standup (or whatever kind of target), this version is a lousy knock-off of the real thing, the Wehrmacht’s Walther P-38. In the Bundeswehr, the German federal army, we all hated the P-1, and I believe that most or all conscript-passed-the-P-1-test reports are as faked as the gun itself.

Anyway, some politicians are making a big fuss of the shipment (which was apparently made before asking the federal parliament’s approval):

Green Party spokesman Winfried Nachtwei accused the grand coalition government, which was in power when the guns were shipped, of a “grossly negligent course of action,” and called for the matter to be investigated in the interest of German security forces and civilian experts sent to Afghanistan.
“It would be truly absurd if soldiers were threatened by weapons irresponsibly delivered by Germany,” Nachtwei said.

I suppose the lad didn’t serve, and has never met the P-1 himself. If anyone in Afghanistan should be afraid of the P-1, it’s their illegal users.

I believe the Bundesnachrichtendienst was behind these sales.

Written by taide

October 12, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Steinbrück set to become Germany’s Ambassador to Switzerland

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NEWSFLASH!!!

Ambassador Steinbrück, charging soon?

Ambassador Steinbrück, charging soon?

Peer Steinbrück (SPD), managing finance minister in Germany’s outgoing grand coalition, is set to become Germany’s ambassador to Switzerland, Taide learned from usually well-informed sources.

Written by taide

September 27, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Verden means World

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Verden means “world”, explained Rolf Specht of Residenz-Gruppe Bremen. And added that Verdeners hadn’t always reacted to his corporation’s building plans in the Süderstadt in an urbane way. The Residenz-Gruppe is building a health-center there, on the hospital site. And Mr Specht is confident that the conflicts with the neighbourhood will die down now.

Mayor Lutz Brockmann, district chief executive Peter Bohlmann, investors, and other distinguished guests

Mayor Lutz Brockmann (SPD), district chief executive Peter Bohlmann (SPD), investors, and other distinguished guests

Only few neighbours had come to the the starting ceremony on the building site, reports the Verdener Aller Zeitung. Most guests were employees of the hospital on the site, members of the county council, Verden’s city council and members of public life (whatever that is).

Oh, and Mr Specht also suggested – if I can believe my local paper – that a  liberal democrat member of the city council arguably had had his own interests in mind when opposing the project.

I don’t know if he has evidence for that, or if it was just the beer. After all, the starting ceremony was a Bierfest, writes the Verdener Aller Zeitung.

I’m just glad that the Residenz-Gruppe and the city government are  selfless servants of the people of Verden.

German Warriors

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My great-grandfather was buried on Verden’s forest cemetary (Verdener Waldfriedhof). His grave is still there, and it is a nice one, because through all the past nine decades, my family people didn’t have to pay a single Pfennig or Eurocent in fees – it’s a hero’s grave.

He was a Private, but he was in such a hurry to take Paris that the German artillery didn’t keep step with him and his comrades. Many of them died in friendly fire, and on the spot. Great-Grandpa was less lucky. He pegged out several month later, in the Annastift in Hanover, minus most of his back.

When he was dead at last, they decorated him with the Iron Cross.

Then there was the second world war.

German society is post-heroic. Heroes too, are only victims in German eyes. The Bundeswehr is a citizen army, and  the federal parliament’s army. It still knows no heroes, and every embarrassing try to change that has been doomed to fail. Medals and cenotaphs give most of us the creeps, rather than causing respect.

Germany succeeded in building an army with uniformed citizens. The old military caste – fortunately – doesn’t matter in the army any more. Families with military traditions like they exist in Britain, France, or America, and which send officers into the army don’t exist in Germany any more.

But this also means that the soldiers won’t earn much respect here when sacrificing their lives for the nation, and its allies.

Some surveys suggest that about three quarters of Americans believe in circumstances which justify war. In Germany, 25 per cent may believe that. 170 years ago, Carl von Clausewitz coined the saying that war is merely a continuation of politics with the inclusion of different means (“Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik unter der Einbeziehung anderer  Mittel”). Most Germans don’t agree with this any longer, and they want no such extension of our foreign policy.

During the past eight years, German politics avoided the word “war” like the plague (which it obviously is), our politicians enacted a reconstruction operetta in Afghanistan which seemed to benefit everyone and to hurt noone, and they risked no candid communication with their constituencies about combat operations. Now the public (which never seemed to care much until now) is finding out that we are at war (the German defence secretary keeps cursing everyone who dares to use this dirty word), and obviously, few people are inclined to take our duties within NATO as serious as they should – those who accept the need for force of arms are the minority in this country.

Dishonourable? Maybe. But anyone who wants to criticise Germany’s sometimes convenient pacifism should also remember how hard it was to finish German militarism in the first place, and how many of their grandfathers died in the struggle. Having ones cake and eating it is yet another challenge. We are learning. But it will take time, and some more decent politicians. What the Social Democrats’ Peter Struck said about Afghanistan last month could be a beginning.