German police using their guns less

German police using their guns less
Photo: DPA
Despite increasing violence against police, officers are reaching for their weapons less often, statistics from the IMK association of state interior ministers showed on Wednesday.

The number of cases in which police fired warning shots sank to just 51 in 2009, the lowest number in 12 years, according to IMK documents obtained by news agency DPA.

Among these incidents police were forced to shoot directly at people 33 times, ultimately killing six – the lowest level since 2003, when three people were killed by police bullets. The majority of these shootings were classified as self-defence, while the rest were intended to stop fleeing suspects, free a hostage, or stop a crime from occurring.

Meanwhile the number of people injured by police shots fell to 21 – a number that was only lower in 2006 and 2008, when there were only 15 such injured in each year, the statistics showed.

“Those who perhaps expected that police shoot more often, should inform themselves again. The opposite is the case,” German Police Union (DPoIG) head Rainer Wendt said. “Though our colleagues are faced with ever-growing dangers, they react with pronounced caution and are everything other than trigger happy.”

DPoIG statistics show that attacks on police have risen significantly in the last 15 years. Detailed numbers will be available later this year, but current information measuring “resistance against authority” showed 28,000 cases in 2008, compared to 17,000 in 2005.

This may come as a surprise to those following two cases of police violence that have recently made national headlines.

On Tuesday, three Berlin police officers went on trial for firing eight deadly shots at close-range on a 26-year-old suspect in the Brandenburg town of Schönfließ in 2008. One officer faces manslaughter charges, while the other two are accused of hindering the investigation against their colleague. The three are said to have ambushed the suspect after receiving a tip on his whereabouts from his girlfriend.

Another case against two police officers who fired 16 times at a 24-year-old student in April 2009 is still under investigation in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg. The young man, identified as Tennessee Eisenberg, was armed with a knife, and some reports have said he was shot in the back.

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