Fewer police officers on duty during Cologne NYE attacks than first thought | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 17.03.2016
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Fewer police officers on duty during Cologne NYE attacks than first thought

A local paper has reported that there were fewer police officers at Cologne's central station on New Year's Eve than previously thought. This is the latest revelation in a series of miscommunications about the events.

New Year's Eve was two-and-a-half months ago, but the events at Cologne's central station are not forgotten. A large group of men, most of them of North African descent, harassed women during the city's festivities, with the result that numerous sexual assaults and robberies were reported.

Now the police are at the center of attention again, as the number of officers present at the station on New Year's Eve was a lot lower than originally thought. Instead of 143 officers, roughly 80 were present at the train station to try to control the masses, a police spokesman confirmed to Cologne daily "Express."

State police outnumbered by attackers by more than 10-1

Crowds gathered in front of Cologne's Central Station on New Year's Eve. (Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Böhm)

Dozens of women were sexually harassed and robbed around Cologne central station on New Year's Eve

This is just the latest revelation in a long line of communication breakdowns by the authorities over the controversial events.

Cologne's police president Wolfgang Albers had to step down following criticism in the aftermath of the New Year's Eve attacks. Initially, statements had said that the night was more or less peaceful. Then when more information did trickle through, police initially held back the fact that many of the attackers were migrants to avoid a far-right backlash.

The information that only around 80 Cologne officers were at the scene on New Year's Eve hits even harder because many people who were attacked that night said that police didn't have the situation under control at all.

"The way that the Cologne police acted on the night of New Year's Eve is just not acceptable," Ralf Jäger, interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said at the time.

Around 1,100 reports of robberies and assaults have been filed with Cologne's public prosecutor's office. In addition to the 80 state officers on duty, there were also 70 federal police officers working inside the station.

Intense police investigation

The revelation gives new ammunition to critics of the Social Democrat Jäger, who as interior minister is responsible for the police. Politicians from the conservative CDU, which is in opposition in North Rhine-Westphalia, have said the New Year's Eve attacks and the way that city and state authorities dealt with them amounted to a "failure of the state."

One social media user wondered for how much longer "these losers" Jäger, Cologne mayor Henriette Reker and North Rhine-Westphalia's State Premier Hannelore Kraft would be allowed to "fumble around" in office.

Police have said some 120 officers are working in the "New Year's" team investigating the attacks. In March, police published photos of some of the attackers to move investigations along. Since then, Cologne police were able to arrest three suspects. In total, 13 suspects have been detained so far.

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