Criticism of berlin police union: one tweet says more than 1,000 words

The German police union tweets itself offside with right-wing rhetoric before a demo. Its chairman used to be a Republican.

Outraged with pleasure: Bodo Pfalzgraf, chairman of the German Police Union Berlin Photo: dpa

The Berlin Senate apparently doubts the integrity of individual police officers who tweet on behalf of the German Police Union Berlin (DPolG). This emerges from the answer to a written question of the Greens June Tomiak to the red-red-green state government, which is available to the taz. It is entitled "Right-wing extremists at the DPolG." In it, the Senate condemns a tweet that was taken down from the police union’s account. DPolG state chairman Bodo Pfalzgraf told the taz that the account was populated by volunteers on behalf of the board.

Tomiak’s inquiry was prompted by a Twitter post published before the start of the Black Lives Matter demonstration on June 6. Literally it said: "Dear colleagues, please take good care of yourselves today! The aggressiveness of the professional demonstrators & violent rioters against the police has reached a new peak. Come all healthy back home! #DPolG #policefamily #EveryLifeCounts".

With the AfD soundbite, the police union not only prejudged tens of thousands of people demonstrating against racism and police violence. It also shared the hashtag #Jedeslebenzahlt used by right-wing groups to mobilize against the Black Lives Matter movement, which originated in the United States.

According to the Senate, the posting, through the use of the hashtag #EveryLifeCounts, "may well be a clue to doubts about compliance with the basic duties incumbent on all civil servants, such as the duty of loyalty to the constitution or the duty of good conduct." However, the tweet alone did not constitute a violation. The post was not attributed to any DPolG official by name. Other tweets that day, however, were clearly attributed to state chairman Bodo Pfalzgraf.

Pfalzgraf is an ex-Republican

That, too, certainly raised questions: Pfalzgraf, who by his own account has been in police service for 41 years, is a former member of the extreme right-wing Republicans. He found himself on their election lists in 1990. The party has been monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution since 1992. This was also the subject of the question. The Senate had known for some time that Pfalzgraf had been a member of the DPolG, but he had only joined after he had begun his police service. Further connections between right-wing extremists and the DPolG are not known.

In light of the tweets from the DPolG account, Green MP Tomiak said, "The Republican worldview is probably not a thing of the past with Pfalzgraf." She said it was problematic anyway when police officers made such comments about a demo: "If the demo is then still about police violence and legitimate criticism of those affected, I think that’s very borderline."

With the AfD sound pre-judged the police union tens of thousands of demonstrators

Pfalzgraf himself wrote to the taz on request that #Jedeslebenzahlt has been the guiding principle of the police for years. The equation with #Alllivesmatter had become known to him for the first time through the taz inquiry. The tweet also referred to riots in Neukolln the night before the demonstration.

According to Pfalzgraf, he left the Republicans before they were observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. He had been a member for two years, including ten months as state director. He was released by the police for this time. "Radicalization tendencies" had led him to resign in October 1991, Pfalzgraf said.

Andreas Geisel’s interior administration, which is responsible for the police, does not want to say anything about the consequences of the events. However, a spokesman stressed in response to a general inquiry that a police officer has special duties "to profess his support for the free democratic basic order and to stand up for its observance through his entire conduct (e.g., also in social media), both on and off duty." Extremist statements undoubtedly violate this duty and are not to be tolerated, a spokesman said. Police officers must also maintain moderation and restraint when engaging in political activity.

Incidentally, Bodo Pfalzgraf’s boss, DPolG Federal Chairman Rainer Wendt, is himself something of a prototype right-wing populist and debate poisoner. He is known for his cozying up to the AfD and for collecting a salary as a police officer over a long period of time – without working for it. In addition, he did not declare various additional incomes.

Almost every third police officer is a member of the DPolG

Despite all the scandals and rhetorical proximity to the AfD, the DPolG has around 100,000 members within the police force – in view of the 320,000 police officers in Germany, almost one in three is organized in the DPolG.

The largest police union, GdP, with 160,000 members, is generally considered more liberal and is even part of the German Federation of Trade Unions, DGB. However, the GdP also recently showed more frequently that the shift to the right has not left it unscathed: For example, the GdP account recently shared the hashtag #Bluelivesmatter on Instagram and thus relativized racism for its part.

After much criticism, the GdP account at least deleted the hashtag. The tweet of the DPolG Berlin is still online.

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