• Germany's news in English

Police: sorry for racial profiling on ID checks

Hannah Cleaver · 30 Oct 2012, 11:19

Published: 30 Oct 2012 11:19 GMT+01:00

The now 26-year-old student told The Local in March he had been asked for his identification around 15 times in three years when travelling on trains between Kassel and Frankfurt. “The only thing I probably did was to look illegal,” he said.

In December 2010 he got into an argument with two federal police officers who demanded his ID but could not tell him why – so he refused to show them.

The federal police admitted they generally selected people for spot ID checks on the basis of their appearance – including skin colour, and this led to a court case at the end of February.

To the outrage of many, the Koblenz administrative court said such racial profiling was justified.

The student, who does not want to be identified, vowed to fight it, and on Monday afternoon the Koblenz administrative appeals tribunal nullified the initial ruling.

“The two officers were questioned by the tribunal, which then said making decisions on the basis of skin colour was illegal,” the tribunal’s spokesman Hartmut Müller-Rentschler told The Local.

“A representative of the federal police apologised to the plaintiff, who said that this was enough to satisfy him. As a result the case was deemed closed and the ruling of the lower court was declared to have no effect; it was nullified.”

Though this is not as legally strong as a formal verdict that racial profiling was illegal, Müller-Rentschler said it was likely to be taken as a signal, and that the federal police were likely to examine and change their practices.

“This result is a milestone for the legal classification of racial profiling as against the law. This case sends a significant signal for the practice of the federal police,” the student’s lawyer Sven Adam said afterwards in a statement.

“I am happy that the decision of the Koblenz administrative court’s decision has been declared null and void,” said the student. “We had to fight for a long time so that the federal police had to adhere to the ban on discrimination.”

Tahir Della, from the Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD) welcomed the ruling. “We have been fighting for years for public recognition of this practice. Police checks of this kind are no one-off.

“They are the everyday experience of many black people and people of colour in Germany. They are put under suspicion and criminalised by this police practice. We hope that this verdict will serve as a basic political signal.”

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Hannah Cleaver (hannah.cleaver@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

12:02 October 30, 2012 by gorongoza
The finger prooved to be too,too thin to hide behind on this one.
12:13 October 30, 2012 by raandy
I read this when it first appeared about a year or so ago.

I believe this individual was sitting on the train and the police went by numerous people to reach him. Easy to understand his frustration. One would think that maybe they considered him more of a person of interest because of his color,which in truth should not matter. Not to check all passengers routinely and go directly to him is outrageous.
12:22 October 30, 2012 by lucksi
To be fair, if you are black in Germany, then you are standing out like...well, like a black guy in Germany.

Some years ago, I met my first black person in Germany. And it only took 32 years before I ever saw one here(not counting visits to the UK, Canada and the US).

And it doesn't surprise me in the least that they are being checked more often. I will also not be surprised when I get checked in Japan because I am standing out there.

BTW, this post isn't racism, because I use "black person", just simple (ugly) truth.
12:46 October 30, 2012 by eddyrock19
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
13:00 October 30, 2012 by LecteurX
Yes eddyrock19. USA "troubles with immigrants" very much indeed. Look at all the Apache, and Sioux, and Cheyenne and Natchez and Iroquois... all dispossessed and obliterated by those bloody European immigrants.

You probably are very knowledgeable about immigration in the USA, as your eloquence in the English language proves your strong ties to that great nation.

But thank you for this, really. And now, the connection to the topic of the article is?
13:11 October 30, 2012 by raandy
lucksi, my good man, are you trying to say a Black Person in Germany is a rarity?

I see many Black People every day, from many different places, my mail person here in Berlin is Black.Sometimes my bus driver is Black.The clerk at the grocery store has been on occasion Black.

Your trying to say a Black person sticks out like a white bean in a black cats ^ss, not so.
14:08 October 30, 2012 by lucksi
@raandy: Depends on where you live I guess. And yes, until a few years ago, it was an utter rarity. Otherwise the joke along the lines of "There is about one black guy in Germany. We call him Bob" wouldn't have come into existance.
14:22 October 30, 2012 by raandy
lucks, how long ago was the "bob" joke?, been here 25 years and there has always,been a fair amount of Black people, for sure more in the last 10 years.

Many of the American Blacks were here in the military and remained, often married to a German like myself.

True the demographics are different and Berlin being more international would have a higher population in that regard.

My point is that it is no rarity to see people of color in my Hood -:)
17:22 October 30, 2012 by michael4096
I'm somewhat confused. The original ruling was that the cops were not wrong in using racial profiling because to do the jobs they were given they would have to. Does this ruling say that they were wrong to use profiling - they should refuse to do the job? Or, that the job they were given was wrong? Or, just that the situation is a mess and the police shouldn't do it while things are being sorted out?
21:17 October 30, 2012 by joysonabraham
Hey @raandy so you are a black American married and settled here or a white American married and settled here.

Just being curious. nothing to do with race whatever
08:31 October 31, 2012 by hech54
I think also very important is.....Are you obliged by law to show ID to all German police when they simply walk up and ask for it?

I can't imagine any of the privacy-crazed Germans I know simply handing over ID to someone in a green or blue uniform while they are just sitting on a bus or walking down the street.
12:22 October 31, 2012 by gkh50
Ref: I can't imagine any of the privacy-crazed Germans I know simply handing over ID to someone in a green or blue uniform while they are just sitting on a bus or walking down the street.

PMSL.. Of course the Germans do what they are told. The police do what they want, legality is a fallacy.
12:29 October 31, 2012 by Nina Williams
I remember the guy was particularly hurt he said because he was born and raised here and these checks always occured after he returned from visiting family. I don't understand the logic, perhaps someone can explain to me. Who are they looking for? Illegal immigrants? Are they more predisposed to use the trains? Are they more likely to be caught travelling in the center of this country like this guy as opposed to the borders? How many have been caught? Where did they originate from? What is the percentage of illegal immigration in this country? Perhaps if we had some facts to back up police thinking then we could maybe understand what they are doing, because quite frankly it looks patently racist.

For the record this has happened to me as well. The last time it occured, I was travelling with my German husband. Once I saw them enter the carriage I immediately got out my passport. My husband was confused and asked me why, and I told him I was about to get controlled. In the entire car they checked the 4 or 5 Arabic looking gentlemen and of course me. When they came to me, my husband held out his passport too, and the Police suprised said oh you are together and then didn't bother to run my passport. Soooo, because I am married to a German I am less predisposed to be up to something illegal?
02:08 November 1, 2012 by gorongoza
I have a feeling its not gonna be long before the word sorry loses its meaning to many.
08:05 November 1, 2012 by trevzns
This issue of racial profiling is not unique to Germany.

Group projection is easy and convenient. Scapegoating black people and dark skin foreigners for economic despair, violence and problems is standard behavior for most Europeans and other cultural groups around the world.

19:15 November 1, 2012 by raandy
joysonabraham, Nice that you are curious about me,I think.

No Iam a white American married to a German, been here for 25+ years, two children and a rabbit.
21:34 November 1, 2012 by septiSeverus
Profiling of black citizens and black residents is another distraction that provides the general public and the ignorant a sense of security and comfort.

Africans including the small number of african americans in germany account for about 2 precent of the population in Berlin alone. How is it possible black people can establish and operate illegal cash tax free enterprises in germany?

The question and concern should be, who profiles the europeans and eurasians that own, police and have control of the ship containers, freight trains, LKWs, aircrafts and autobahns that are used to smuggle illegal drugs and other illegal commodities into germany and europe?
23:06 November 2, 2012 by TLC
luck, you are not slick son. I'm referring to your comment: "BTW, this post isn't racism, because I use "black person", just simple (ugly) truth."

Black people are beautiful!
02:27 November 3, 2012 by blauaugen63
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
03:06 November 4, 2012 by soros
The cops check people who dont look like they are German simply because the country has so many illegals, esp. from Africa. I was at Frankfurt airport when the police took into custody about ten Africans, all who seemed not to have any papers at all; they'd just gotten off a plane. This happens daily. So, what are they supposed to do? Wait till there are eleven million illegals in the country? That's what's been happening in the USA.
18:26 November 4, 2012 by Brasstacks11
Control!!! HA HA! Germany,like its alter ego USA, sometime ago took its giant step to the right after 9/11. Now Germany is a spy country and I would rank it third as the most provocative civil rights offender after the USA and UK. Germans like to think of themselves as the vanguard of liberal civil liberties, but in fact Germany now engages in explicit civil rights violations. Dusseldorf airport? You will be controlled if you have side burns. In fact if you wear Bell Bottom Jeans that is an open invitation to be controlled. Dortmund? After sunset just but anyone is fair game. Banks? Police do not even need a warrant now to a have a peek at your Sparkkasse Account and openly solicit informers in Switzerland. Germany's Basic Law is now the same joke as the US constitution..you have no rights!
13:39 November 9, 2012 by freads
Man..this is scary. I thought Germans were good people. I don't want to be randomly frisked because i'm Indian. This would mean that i should be ready for some legal action for no mistake of mine when i'm there only to just study. Who knows? They might put me in jail because i'm brown and they might think i'm doing something sneaky.
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