Claims that German federal police use racial profiling have been denied by a conservative deputy to the interior minister. This follows a Münster court censure of officers for stopping a man because of his dark skin.
Stephan Mayer, a Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) deputy to Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, told the Bild newspaper that allegations of racism leveled at police were "completely groundless and absurd."
On Monday, the Higher Administrative Court in Münster — in Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia — ruled that two officers had violated the equality of treatment precept anchored in Germany's postwar constitution.
The case was launched in 2013 by a 43-year-old dark-skinned German who was stopped and told to present his passport at Bochum's railway station.
'Higher burden of proof'
The two officers argued that the station was often the scene of drug dealing and baggage thefts often carried out by dark-skinned men.
The complainant, from the nearby Ruhr District city of Witten, said he had often been subjected to such checks by federal police, who are mandated to patrol Germany's railways and airports.
The Münster court ruled there was no justification for the 2013 check. Police could only cite skin color when there were pointers to a crime, and, if so, faced a "higher burden of proof," the court said.
Another police claim, that they were checking for illegal migrants on trains, was ruled fallacious because the officers had seen the man enter the station from outside, said the presiding judge, Ricarda Brandts.
Mayer told Bild that the "allegation that federal police who checked Africans are racist is completely groundless and absurd."
Jörg Radek, the deputy chairman of Germany's GdP police trade union said federal police must be able to carry out checks at railway stations to prevent and control crime.
"I trust the colleagues that they enter into such situations with high professionalism," said Radek, adding that they did so fairly.
Federal parliamentarian and Senegalese-born Social Democrat politician Karamba Diaby said: "The fact is that police acted unlawfully."
"We must amend police law so that discriminatory checks on persons are stopped. If procedural steps have discriminatory effects, then we must overcome this," Diaby said.
Parliamentarian and policewoman Irene Mihalic, a spokesperson on interior affairs for the opposition Greens, said: "Checks must either be done on all or they must have concrete factual grounds."
Amnesty International policing expert Maria Scharlau said every police check has to be based on concrete suspicious behavior exhibited by a person.
Every person can moderate his or her behavior but not his or her appearance," said Scharlau.
Ipj/rc (dpa, KNA, epd)