At a critical point in the operation, a change of police shifts prevented the co-ordination of officers from happening smoothly, news magazine Der Spiegel reported, citing investigations by the Duisburg state prosecutor.
When the crush started, there were not enough police ready to prevent more party-goers surging into the overcrowded tunnel where many thousands of people were already crammed as they tried to get into the rave venue. It was here that the 21 people were crushed to death.
According to the magazine, the shift change was not factored into the original operation plan but only came about at the last minute through the intervention of the police employee representative.
In an order approved by the then North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Ingo Wolf several weeks before the Love Parade, police shifts were limited to a maximum of 12 hours, including the travel time to and from any operation.
The changes to the operation orders were strongly criticised within the police force because the deployment of relieving officers could be done only slowly and with great difficulty, meaning that for several hours, there might not be enough police on the ground. Representatives of the police union rejected this account however, saying that the police ending their shifts remained in place until the new officers were fully deployed.
There were also problems with police communications, the investigation has found, according to Der Spiegel. Key officers could not be reliably reached because the radio reception in the tunnel did not work and because the mobile phone network had collapsed.
Only a “tiny proportion” of police mobile phones had been registered with federal authorities to give them a priority connection to the network, which would have allowed them to override the floods of calls being made by party-goers and get through to their superiors.
The deaths and injuries happened after panic broke out when too many people tried to get into the main venue of the massive rave in Duisburg in North Rhine-Westphalia. They were guided through a tunnel through which they did not fit – and met people trying to leave.
People were killed in the crush and many more injured, while hundreds tried to escape by climbing up an embankment.
An investigation launched soon after the July 24 incident is now officially investigating 16 suspects for negligent manslaughter and negligently causing bodily harm. These include a leading police officer, Der Spiegel reported earlier this year.
The Interior Ministry declined to comment on the latest report, “so as not to compromise the results of the ongoing investigation.”