SHARE
COPY LINK

CRIME

Police officers riled by new ID requirement

Berlin police must now wear personal identification on their uniforms, but many German officers say the requirement puts their lives at risk. Moises Mendoza reports.

Police officers riled by new ID requirement
Photo: DPA

Police officer Thomas S. says his job on the streets of southern Berlin is hard enough as it is.

So he’s angry that he’s now forced to wear an ID badge with his personnel number on it. It puts his life at risk, he says.

“Even as police officers we live completely openly in our private lives,” he told The Local this week. “I’m afraid criminals could track me down. You deal with the same people for years and they start to hate you personally.”

Although police officers in other western countries like the United States and Britain have been required to wear numbers or name tags for years, Berlin last month became the first German state to mandate their use among uniformed officers.

But the move, made in the face of stiff opposition from Germany’s two main police unions, has outraged officers such as Thomas S., who refused to offer his surname while talking to The Local. He and many of his colleagues consider it part of a nationwide trend that will erode police privacy.

Now the GdP police union is mobilizing its resources to fight the requirement. This week it said it was supporting officers who are filing a complaint with Berlin’s chief law enforcement officials. If that’s rejected, union officials said, further legal action is possible.

“There is no compromising on this,” said Detlef Herrmann, a GdP administrator based in Berlin, who believes the open display of officers’ names or personnel numbers poses unacceptable risk. “We want things to go back to the way they used to be.”

That would mean mandating Berlin’s roughly 13,000 police officers to provide their service numbers when demanded, but letting them decide on their own whether to wear ID badges all the time, he said.

Controversial or common sense?

The new ID requirement was announced by Berlin’s police superintendent in 2010 following long-standing demands from human rights groups like Amnesty International. Although officials initially said officers would have to wear tags displaying their last names, they eventually compromised, allowing just ID numbers.

After months of controversy, the tags were distributed to officers last month.

“For us it’s always been a necessary requirement,” said Joachim Rahmann, who researches police issues for Amnesty’s Germany branch. “We’ve identified numerous cases in which a lack of identification hindered investigation of police abuses.”

Amnesty’s latest report on police practices in Germany points to a 2010 study by the Berlin’s Free University that found mandatory police IDs could have helped identify perpetrators in at least 10 percent of investigations into police brutality that later had to be terminated.

The GdP says that while that could be true, such mandates may be a violation of Germany’s strict privacy laws and could put police officers in great danger.

Rahmann said that there’s been no evidence of increased danger for police or their families in countries where officers are required to wear IDs.

But Hermann argued that comparing Germany with countries like the United States is akin to dealing with apples and oranges.

“Germany society is very different,” he said. “For one thing, in the US, there is much more respect for police.”

The proof is in the abuse police officers already face even though their names aren’t known publicly, said the union, pointing to cases of German officers’ family members being phoned and verbally harassed.

Debate goes national

The controversy in Berlin has spurred intense debate about police name tag requirements across Germany.

The state of Brandenburg recently announced it would require officers to wear ID by 2013.

But other states, and the federal police, have responded more cautiously, with Saxony-Anhalt’s premier even comparing mandatory police IDs to the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear under the Nazis. National officials have said there are no plans to require federal officers to wear name tags.

In an interview with The Local, a Berlin police spokesman suggested the entire controversy may be much ado about nothing.

“Wearing identification is a form of customer service,” said spokesman Florian Nath. “It doesn’t matter if officers don’t want to. They have to wear it anyway.”

But Thomas S. said officers provide service that’s good enough already.

He said the ID requirement, despite the fact he doesn’t have to display his name, is an attack on his personal safety.

“I’m afraid,” he said. “We deal daily with criminals and people who want to hurt us.”

Moises Mendoza

[email protected]

twitter.com/moisesdmendoza

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

TRAVEL NEWS

What we know so far about Berlin’s follow-up to the €9 ticket

After weeks of debate, Berlin has settled on a new budget ticket to replace the €9 ticket for a limited time. Here's what know about the travel deal so far.

What we know so far about Berlin's follow-up to the €9 ticket

So Berlin’s getting a new €9 ticket? Cool!

Kind of. Last Thursday, the Berlin Senate agreed to implement a €29 monthly ticket from October 1st until December 31st this year. 

It’s designed to bridge the gap between the end of the €9 ticket deal and the introduction of a new national transport deal that’s due to come into force by January 2023.

The Senate still hasn’t fleshed out the details in a written decision yet, so some aspects of the ticket aren’t clear, but we do know a few things about how it’ll work. For €29 a month, people can get unlimited travel on all modes of public transport in Berlin transport zones A and B. That means buses, trains and trams are all covered – but things like taxis aren’t. 

Wait – just zones A and B. Why’s that?

One of the sticking points in planning the new ticket was the fact that neighbouring state Brandenburg was reluctant to support the idea. Franziska Giffey (SPD), the governing mayor of Berlin, had annoyed her neighbours and surprised her own coalition partners by suddenly pitching the idea at the end of August – shortly before the €9 ticket was due to expire.

At the time, the disgruntled Brandenburg state premier Dietmar Woidke (SPD) complained about the lack of advance notice for a proper debate. He had previously ruled out a successor to the €9 ticket in the state. Meanwhile, the CDU – who are part of the governing coalition in Brandenburg – slammed the idea for a new cheap ticket as a “waste of money” and an attempt to “buy votes” for the SPD.

The blockade meant that plans for a Berlin-Brandenburg ticket run by transport operator VBB had to be scrapped, and the monthly ticket has instead been restricted to the two transport zones solely operated by Berlin’s BVG. Since zone C stretches into Brandenburg, Berlin couldn’t include this zone in the ticket unilaterally. 

Berlin transport zones explained

Source: S-Bahn Berlin

The good news is that zones A and B cover everything within the city’s borders, taking you as far as Spandau in the west and Grunau in the southeast. So unless you plan regular trips out to the Brandenburg, you should be fine.

However, keep in mind that the Berlin-Brandenburg BER airport is in zone C, so you’ll need an ‘add-on’ ticket to travel to and from there. It’s also not great for the many people who live in Potsdam in Brandenburg and commute into Berlin regularly. 

READ ALSO: Berlin gets green light to launch €29 transport ticket

How can people get hold of it? 

Unlike the €9 ticket, you won’t be able to buy it at stations on a monthly basis. Instead, the €29 ticket is only for people who take out a monthly ‘Abo’ (subscription) for zones A and B. If you’ve already got a monthly subscription, the lower price will be deducted automatically, while yearly Abo-holders will likely get a refund. 

You can take out a monthly subscription on the BVG website here – though, at the time of writing, the price of the ticket hadn’t been updated yet. According to Giffey, people will be able to terminate their subscription at the end of December without facing a penalty. 

What types of ‘Abos’ are eligible for the deal? 

According to Berlin transport operator BVG, people with the following subscriptions are set to benefit from the reduced price from October to December: 

  • VBB-Umweltkarten with monthly and annual direct debit
  • 10 o’clock tickets with monthly and yearly direct debit
  • VBB-Firmentickets with monthly and yearly direct debit 
  • Trainee subscriptions with monthly direct debit

People who already have reduced-price subscriptions, such as over-65s and benefits claimants, aren’t set to see any further reductions. That’s because many of these subscriptions already work out at under €29 per month for zones A and B. 

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train in Berlin

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train at Zoologischer Garten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Can students with a Semesterticket get it as well?

That’s one of the things that still needs to be clarified. It’s possible that universities will choose to refund part of the Semesterticket price like they did with the €9 ticket. The Local has contacted BVG for more information. 

Can I take my bike/dog/significant other along for the ride? 

Once again, this doesn’t appear to have been ironed out yet – but we can assume that the usual rules of your monthly or yearly subscription will apply. So, as with the €9 ticket, if your bike is included in your subscription, you can continue to take it with you. If not, you’ll probably have to pay for a bike ticket.

In most cases, monthly BVG subscriptions allow you to take one dog with you for free, and also bring one adult and up to three children (under 14) with you on the train on evenings and weekends. These rules are likely to stay the same, but we’ll update you as soon as we know more. 

How much is this all going to cost?

According to regional radio station RBB24, around €105 million is set to be put aside in order to subsidise the temporary ticket. However, this still needs to be formalised in a supplementary budget and given the green light in the Senate. 

An S-Bahn train leaves Grünewald station

An S-Bahn train leaves Grünewald station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

OK. And what happens after the €29 ticket?

That’s the million – or, rather, billion – euro question right now. In its latest package of inflation relief measures, the federal government said it would be making €1.5 billion available for a follow-up to the €9 ticket.

The ticket is set to be introduced by January 2023 and will rely on Germany’s 16 states matching or exceeding the federal government’s €1.5 billion cash injection. So far, it looks set to be a monthly ticket that can be used on public transport nationally, with the price set somewhere between €49 and €69.

However, the Greens continue to push for a two-tier model that would give passengers the option of buying either a regional or national ticket. Under their proposals, the regional tickets would cost €29 and the national tickets would cost €69.

READ ALSO:

SHOW COMMENTS