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Tougher laws

May 28, 2010

Federal and state interior ministers have pushed for a law that will stiffen punishment on all attacks against police in Germany. The draft comes in response to increased levels of violence directed at officers.

German police officers patrol the central train station in Berlin on September 27, 2009, the day of German general elections
The laws were drafted for the 'security of police officers'Image: AP

Germany's interior ministers have made a move to create more protection for the country's police, after deciding on Friday to ask for tougher laws against all attacks on officers.

"Our policemen protect our freedom, our lives, and the property of all citizens and therefore require special protection against attacks," German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said at a press conference after the annual meeting in Hamburg with the interior ministers of Germany's 16 federal states.

Police on patrol outside a courtroom in southern Germany
Public demonstrations are often the scene of violent attacksImage: picture alliance/ dpa

The ministers agreed to raise the maximum penalty from two to three years in prison, with instances of serious abuse - such as punching or kicking an officer - warranting a maximum sentence of five years.

In response to the interior ministers' conference, German Justice Minister Sabine Leuthhauser-Schnarrenberger confirmed on Friday that she would support the increased penalty, adding, however, that she was "not prepared to implement a minimum prison sentence on attacks against police officers."

'Scapegoats of the nation'

An interior ministry study released on Wednesday showed that violence against police forces across Germany had increased dramatically in the past five years.

Leading German criminologist Christian Pfeiffer told Deutsche Welle he could understand why German officers described themselves as "scapegoats of the German nation," with cases of serious abuse against police having more than doubled between 2005 and 2009.

German police patrolling the Oktoberfest celebration in Bavaria
Some German police refer to themselves as 'scapegoats of the nation'Image: picture-alliance / dpa

Of the over 22,000 officers polled, ninety percent said they had been threatened with violence while on duty in the past year. Thirty percent said they had been either punched or kicked by suspects resisting arrest.

The study also indicated that violent attacks occurred most frequently when officers were called to restore order at demonstrations or to scenes of domestic violence.

Pfeiffer said in the case of domestic violence that this was a "double-edged sword."

"On the one hand, this shows a positive development, with more women alerting the authorities when in danger of abuse. On the other hand, it also means that more officers are becoming the target of this violence," Pfeiffer said.

Biker gang 'peace accord' ineffective

The other major topic discussed by the ministers was a potential ban on the Hell's Angels and Bandidos motorcycle gangs.

With a feud between the two groups reaching a highpoint earlier this year after a series of revenge killings - and the murder of a policeman in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in March - several of the country's interior ministries had already suggested a Germany-wide ban, which was confirmed on Friday after the ministers' meeting.

A Hell's Angel sits on his motorcycle
Germany is looking to outlaw violent biker gangsImage: picture alliance/dpa

This comes after leaders of the two gangs met in Hanover earlier in the week to announce an official end to rivalry as part of an accord to work towards a "peaceful coexistence."

A spokesman for Germany's police union, however, labeled the non-aggression pact "all smoke and mirrors to camouflage [the groups'] rowdyism and criminal machinations," reflecting the German authorities' incredulous reception of the announced peace deal.

Although consensus has been reached among German state officials to outlaw the Hell's Angels and Bandidos, however, doubts remain whether such an all-encompassing ban would be legal.

Author: Gabriel Borrud

Editor: Kyle James