Deputy national chairman of the Federation of German Detectives (BDK), Sebastian Fiedler, says closer police cooperation at the European level is needed for greater success in arresting terror suspects.
DW: Mr. Fiedler, on Thursday, four suspected terrorists were arrested. Were you surprised by this?
Sebastian Fiedler: Ideally, such arrests should come as a surprise, because the investigation should largely be conducted in secret. But, of course, we had dedicated many investigators to this area, and we are missing them in other areas.
Is there a sufficient police force now to meet the challenges posed by the refugee crisis?
The interior minister again made it very clear on Wednesday that there are particular groups of refugees, such as those coming from war zones, who are not such a cause for concern from the perspective of the police. Generally speaking, Syrians tend not to be very criminally active. The bigger problem lies with migrants coming from the Balkans, from Georgia, and from North Africa. They are disproportionately represented in crime statistics.
How would you evaluate the terror risk generally?
That's a very complex issue, because we have to look at the entire security apparatus - the intelligence services for example. In the current case, information from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution played an important role.
But it's exactly in this area of criminality that I feel a discussion is lacking about European cooperation - issues such as Islamic terrorism, organized crime, money laundering, economic crime. The police continue to be subject to national borders when it comes to sharing information. In addition, we need employees, both in the quantitative as well as the qualitative sense.
What do you mean by "qualitative?"
Currently, more police officers are being sent out on the streets. But that only offers supposed security in those areas of criminal activity that are actually keeping us hard at work. We're not going to bust up criminal gangs with our colleagues out on the street. We need people who are interested in real police detective work. But we have an outdated human resources policy. We could really use migrants who have the foreign language skills that we need. Police work has become so specialized that we really have to focus on finding better, more qualified staff.
How do you view cooperation with the courts?
It depends. We try to maintain very strong cooperation. Our first points of contact are the state prosecutors. We work very closely together particularly on the bigger cases. But the courts and the state prosecutors face the same kinds of problems that we do. The state prosecutors have too much on their plate; the courts don't have enough judges. It can sometimes take years for cases to go to trial. As police officers, we wish that the justice system were a bigger part of the discussion about crime. That includes the discussion about how cases could be better handled in Germany. Because policies on crime are only effective in conjunction with the police and the justice system.
Earlier this week, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière talked about how we've focused for too long on the friendly side of working as a police officer. He says it's time to concentrate on the less pleasant aspects of the job. Do you agree?
I'm of two minds. On the one hand, he is undoubtedly right in his assessment. These debates that you frequently have, where police officers are portrayed as people who are meddling with people's right to freedom were often characterized by a defensive attitude toward the state. And the interior minister is right that we have to realize that the police are, first and foremost, responsible for upholding a fair and just society.
But the minister and his colleagues at the state level need to also take some responsibility here. Because the truth is that politics also plays a role in the public perception. And in the last 20 years, politicians have had a tendency to present too positive an image of crime levels in this country. Often, it's out of a desire to enhance their reputation for being tough on crime. But this has often lead to the problem that the same interior minister who tells you today why the crime statistics are not so bad can't explain to you tomorrow why, in reality, he needs more police officers.
Sebastian Fiedler is the deputy chairman of the Federation of German Detectives (BDK).