German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich wants to replace the entire leadership of the German federal police, but the opposition and police unions are outraged by the decision.
"Heads are simply being lopped off," said Michael Hartmann, domestic policy expert in the opposition Social Democratic Party, describing Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich's personnel policy.
It emerged on Saturday that the incumbent Federal Police President Matthias Seeger was to be sacked, along with his two deputies Wolfgang Lohmann and Michael Frehse. On Monday, the Interior Ministry confirmed that Seeger was sent into retirement, while Lohmann and Frehse were shifted into other responsibilities. The names of the replacements are expected to be announced officially after Wednesday's cabinet meeting.
Hartmann believes there is no justification at all for sacking the entire police leadership in this manner, while Green Party head Claudia Roth dismissed Friedrich's behavior as "in bad taste," and said the minister had no authority among the police. The government coalition parties, on the other hand, welcomed the decision.
Germany's federal police employs around 40,000 people. Its main responsibility is security at the country's borders, airports and railways stations, and it also provides support for the regional police forces during special operations.
According to press reports, the sackings were prompted by a failure of trust in the relationship between Friedrich and the police leadership. The minister was said to be unhappy with the leading officers, partly because questionable revelations about them kept being leaked to the public. The most persistent of these is Seeger's undetermined relationship with Belarusian authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Jörg Radek, deputy chairman of the German Police Union (GdP), described Friedrich's decision as "in poor taste," and damaging to the entire police's reputation. "The reasons for the sackings have changed at will over the past months," he told DW. "I can't see any actual reason at all. It's just a piecemeal demolition."
On top of that, says Radek, the ministry has not officially confirmed any of its justifications, while Seeger has consistently denied all allegations. Radek's theory is that the real reason has much more to do with Seeger's opposition to the planned merger of the federal police with the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) - equivalent to the US Federal Bureau of Investigations.
This fusion has been hotly debated for some time. "Seeger has criticized the idea for procedural and security reasons," said Radek. "The politicians won't have liked that one bit."
The unionist also thinks Seeger's other criticisms have not endeared him to the minister. "Seeger has drawn attention to the discrepancy between the federal police's duties and the resources it has at its disposal," he said. "And he has not been afraid to bring it up to the parliament." He complains that the federal police's responsibilities have expanded, while its resources have remained the same. This, he argues, has threatened the country's security.
Author: Günther Birkenstock / bk
Editor: Andreas Illmer