Leftists wants police pepper spray ban

The socialist Left party is trying to ban police in North Rhine-Westphalia from using pepper spray in what could be a precursor to attempts to forbid its use by cops nationwide.

Leftists wants police pepper spray ban
Photo: DPA

Representatives of The Left made a motion in the western German state parliament’s home affairs committee Thursday proposing the ban under strong protest from police unions, according to the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) newspaper.

At present, the measure doesn’t seem likely to pass parliament, although it’s creating widespread consternation among police.

The Left has said that pepper spray use by police contributed to the deaths of six people in Germany between 2009 and 2010, although it is unclear where it is getting its statistics. The party has also pointed to what they say has been its excessive use at the Stuttgart 21 protests and against football fans creating disturbances.

Though pepper spray is widely used by officers as a non-lethal method to subdue suspects, it can sometimes be dangerous to people suffering from asthma or allergies or people under the influence of drugs.

But the GdP police union said it remains an invaluable tool for police officers in a country where other supposedly non-lethal devices – such as high-voltage Tasers – aren’t generally used due to legal concerns.

“Police must be allowed to protect themselves,” said GdP spokesman Stephan Hegger, who told WAZ that banning pepper spray could have unintended effects, such as prompting police officers to use their nightsticks or guns more.

The GdP has said that violence against police officers has been increasing as of late, perhaps prompting an increase in pepper spray use.

Pepper spray has burst into the headlines lately in large part because of recent incidents in the US where police have sprayed apparently non-violent protesters.

Among the most controversial took place at a California university last month when a police officer repeatedly sprayed students affiliated with the Occupy movement who were protesting by peacefully sitting.

The Local/mdm

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101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

A 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard on Monday once again denied being complicit in war crimes during the Holocaust as his trial drew to a close in Germany.

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

Josef Schütz, the oldest person so far to face trial over Nazi crimes during World War II, is accused of involvement in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, has pleaded innocent throughout the trial, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said again at the close of the proceedings, his voice wavering.

Dressed in a grey shirt and pyjama bottoms and sitting in a wheelchair, Schütz insisted he had had nothing to do with the atrocities and was “telling the truth”.

READ ALSO: Ex-Nazi death camp secretary who fled trial to face court in Germany

Prosecutors say he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the crimes as a guard at the camp and are seeking to punish him with five years behind bars.

But Schütz’s lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said that since there were no photographs of him wearing an SS uniform, the case was based on “hints” of his possible involvement.

“As early as 1973, investigators had information about him but did not pursue him. At the time, witnesses could have been heard but now they are all dead or no longer able to speak,” Waterkamp said.

Former Nazi guard

The 101-year-old former Nazi guard covers his face at the Neuruppin courthouse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

It would be a mistake for the court to try to “make up for the mistakes of a previous generation of judges”, the lawyer said.

Antoine Grumbach, 80, whose father died in Sachsenhausen, told AFP Schuetz “does not want to remember”, calling it “a form of defence”.

The trial was not just about “putting a centenarian in prison”, he said. It had also produced evidence that Sachsenhausen was an “experimental extermination camp”.

“All the cruellest methods were invented there and then exported,” Grumbach said.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor