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  • John Riceburg: How many German police are racist, psychopathic “bad apples”?


John Riceburg: How many German police are racist, psychopathic “bad apples”?

A police officer from Hannover was bragging on WhatsApp about torturing prisoners at the station. John Riceburg asks: Was this just a case of a single bad apple?

Image for John Riceburg: How many German police are racist, psychopathic
Sunday during the demo against the relocation of the refugees at O-Platz. Photo by quilombofotos

Let’s start with a quiz:

A workplace in Germany in August 2013. A man named Torsten S. takes out his penis and places it on the shoulder of a coworker: The 39-year-old tells his colleague to suck it – while holding a gun to his head! 

So the question is: What was the workplace?

  1. a hospital;
  2. an architect’s office;
  3. a software company;
  4. A federal police station?

To ask the question is to answer it: The police station. Where else can anyone try to pass off an armed attempt at sexual assault as some innocent fun? 

Maybe you can find an isolated psychopath in any profession. But what makes this story so police-specific is that this incident, which took place by the central train station in Hanover, was only reported on May 7 of this year – almost two years later! Only the Polizei – and maybe also the mafia – maintain this iron code of silence.

This story came to light after it was revealed that Torsten S., a Polizeiobermeister, had been bragging on WhatsApp about torturing two men, from Afghanistan and Morocco, at the station in March and September of 2014. As evidence he even included a picture of a man, restrained in handcuffs, beaten on the floor.

“He squealed like a pig,” Torsten S. said of one of his victims.

Now lots of state representatives have come forward to say Torsten S. was just a single “bad apple”. But this is only possible in an institution in which the Korpsgeist dictates that at all costs you need to protect your friends. This will be clear to anyone who has ever watched a trial in Germany: One police officer after another giving identical testimony, even if it clearly contradicts video evidence.

Let’s ask ourselves: What would Torsten S. have done had he been a “good apple?” His job was to stop people with dark skin at the train station, check their papers and search their persons. (This might sound medieval, but racial profiling in Germany is both widespread and legal, just keep your eyes open at a train station or especially at Görlitzer Park.) And if Torsten S. found someone without papers, his job was to lock them up and force them, against their will, to travel to countries wracked by war and poverty.

So if we’re honest, the torture Torsten S. was committing was only about 20 percent above and beyond what he was supposed to be doing. This psychopath forced prisoners to eat rotten pork off the floor. But a “normal” practice in Germany is to give refugees food packets, often of poor quality, which don’t correspond to their cultural or dietary needs. So plenty of Muslims are forced to eat pork or go hungry. In other words: The scandal isn’t that Torsten S. was beating up foreigners – he was doing it with sadistic pleasure instead of the cold efficiency of the professional German bureaucrat.

That’s why I don’t think it’s fair to say Torsten S. was a bad apple. I love apples and I resent the comparison. This one psychopathic police officer was just the tip of an iceberg of systematic racist discrimination. I don’t see the use in “sensitivity training” to make police more polite while they’re oppressing refugees. Apples give me both nutrition and pleasure, but I can’t think of a single useful job done by police that couldn’t be better done by social workers. So I say: Let’s throw out this whole barrel full of “rotten apples” and abolish the police.