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A civilian wearing leather and sporting a large, mulitcolor mohawk makes a lewd hand-sign in a riot-gear-wearing policeman's face.
Penalties for assaulting police and resisting arrest are too lenient says the police unionImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Attacks on police

August 14, 2009

The head of the German police union has expressed serious concerns over the increase in violence against police over the past few years, causing officers to avoid some areas out of fear for their safety.


Rainer Wendt, head of Germany's DPoIG police union, in an interview with Deutsche Welle on Thursday, said there has been a worrisome decline in respect for police officers across Germany.

Wendt reported that the number of assaults on police officers in the line of duty had jumped nearly 25 percent in the last five years.

"We are witnessing this, not just among young people, but also across broad segments of the population," Wendt said.

Police consider parts of Berlin and other industrial cities such as Duisburg no-go areas.

"There is less and less respect for police and other representatives of authority," Wendt said. "They are not just being taunted and insulted, but are facing growing acts of violence, being physically attacked, kicked and spat on."

A rock lies on the street in front of a line of riot police in Berlin on May 1st, 2009
The 2009 May Day protests in Berlin resulted in more than twice as many injured police as in 2008Image: picture-alliance/ dpa

According to the police union's newsletter Polizeispiegel, there were over 28,000 attacks against police in 2008.

Among the reasons for this trend, according to Wendt, is that budget cuts took 10,000 police officers off the streets in recent years.

He also asserted that penalties for resisting arrest or assaulting an officer were too mild.

Wendt had previously called for stronger tactics by police against rioters during the 2009 May Day protests, when he favored a visible show of strength by the police and use of water cannons to clear the streets of rioters.

During the May Day protests, 273 Berlin police officers were wounded in clashes with rioters throwing stones, as opposed to 112 in 2008.

Government disagrees

A report presented in June by Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble showed that, overall, violent crime was down 4.7 percent in 2008 from the previous year.

"That proves and emphasizes that Germany is a safe country," Schaeuble told the Associated Press at the time.

But that same report showed that violent crime in public had actually risen 5 percent.

And it's not just isolated incidents, according to Wendt.

"This is not just a single group, such as immigrants or young people," he said. "This willingness to act violently runs deep into the middle class. We see this not only at demonstrations, but also public events, festivals, parades, soccer matches and even ordinary bar-room brawls, where violent individuals band together to attack the police."

One of the methods that the union says could help stem the violence is longer sentences for resisting arrest, up to five years from two, which is currently the same as the sentence for illegal fishing.

Editor: Nancy Isenson

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