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Germany

German police officers face increasing violence on patrol

Recent studies show violence against police officers in Germany is on the rise, and their workload has also increased. Our reporter went out with a couple of Bonn police officers as they made their rounds.

Police officer Burkhard Jung on his way to the main station in Bonn

The area around Bonn's main station attracts all kinds

The illuminated sign next to the huge glass door reads "GABI" - a German acronym for a police drop-in center in Bonn's inner city.

With its many corners and stairways, this dismal area in the lower level of the main train station tends to attract a lot of drug addicts. This is where senior police officer Wulf Klinge and his colleagues are based, along with officers from Bonn's public affairs office.

The officers have been working here since 1992, but Klinge says their work routine has changed over the years.

"People have always been resistant to our work as the police, we've experienced that over and over," he told Deutsche Welle. "But this open animosity to police forces, especially as a show of strength, this has increased." At times, Klinge says, it almost seems to be some sort of game for certain groups.

Drug addicts are often aggressive towards the police, especially when under the influence. But Klinge finds it more alarming that even kids are now putting up a resistance. Recently, even a nine-year-old with a record fought the police tooth and nail.

A well-known scene

The police station GABI in Bonn's main station

Police stationed at GABI see a lot of action

Part of the daily routine at GABI is the foot patrol, a beat usually manned by a team of two officers. Burkhard Jung is familiar with the busy scene at the station. Stationed here for 18 years, he knows those who linger in the area very well.

"Those two right in front of us, they are part of the clientele," he said, referring to the members of the drug scene and the homeless who use the area around the station as their meeting place.

Jung, as one of the oldest officers at the station, has noticed changes in the daily police routine. "It's quite alarming when an opponent uses force against you, even if it's just because of relatively minor things," he said.

Since the employees at GABI often have to deal with addicts, they help them find treatment facilities in order to curb their drug addiction.

On patrol, Jung stops by an association that helps people at risk - drug addicts and also those with social problems. He says it's important to keep in touch with the scene, and the officers can address most of the heroin addicts by name. This often helps to defuse difficult situations.

A police officer on patrol in Bonn's city center

Police uniforms no longer guarantee respect

Ready to strike back

Jung continues his patrol, moving towards the Christmas market in Bonn's inner city. Even right in Bonn's center, dark corners like a backyard can serve as a meeting place for drug addicts.

If words fail and Jung is attacked, he has pepper spray at the ready on his belt. He also wears a bulletproof vest, a walkie-talkie, handcuffs and his service weapon - altogether 10 kilograms (about 22 pounds) that he has to carry for up to two hours while on patrol.

These days, the uniform doesn't command the respect it once did, according to station chief Klinge. Older colleagues have complained that they're not taken seriously. "That's a source for potential frustration within the police force," he added.

In order to change the situation, Klinge says penalties for violence against police officers must be stricter. But according to him, it's not enough for just police officers to agitate against the rise of violence.

"It's a task for society as a whole. We are simply the lightning rod of this development. I think the overall development is a broad one, and also a difficult one."

Author: Sonja Gillert/sst
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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