More cops to carry ID numbers - and cameras
The central state of Hesse is set to be the third in Germany to require police officers to wear identification numbers, while others have been wearing cameras in a pilot project to try to reduce the thousands of attacks against them.
The conservative Christian Democratic Union, currently negotiating a state governing coalition with the Greens, have dropped their opposition to the ID numbers, meaning the measure will be adopted, politicians from the two parties said on Tuesday.
This was agreed against a background of criticism of the police for violence against Occupy protesters this year.
Making police officers wear identifying numbers, even if only when on special duty such as during demonstrations or clearing squatted houses, has long been demanded in Germany. Civil rights campaigners say their absence makes it nearly impossible to make complaints against individual officers.
German policing policy is organized state by state and Berlin and Brandenburg have already introduced identification numbers for their officers in some situations, while Rhineland Palatinate is due to follow suit at the start of 2014, the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper reported.
Germany's biggest police union GdP has consistently opposed identification of their members, saying they might then face threats and intimidation while off duty. Even if numbers were used rather than names, officers could end up tangled up in investigations which can damage career paths, when trivial complaints were made against them, the GdP said in a position paper.
And violence against police officers has also been increasing across the country. Figures from the German Police Union (GdP) show a 13 percent rise in serious injuries caused to police officers by attacks up from 3,326 in 2011 to 3,755 in 2012.
There was an eight percent increase in minor injuries over the same period, from 11,308 to 12,198, and almost a 12 percent increase in threats made against police officers - from 2,942 in 2011 to 3,289 in 2012.
It is this that the pilot project with shoulder cameras in Frankfurt was designed to combat. Officers in the Sachsenhausen area of the city wore the 'Body-Cam's over the first six months of the year, to see if they were safer as a result.
The cameras are mounted on their shoulders and can be activated with a button on the wrist. The number of cases of resistance against officers halved during this time - from 14 to just seven, head of the inner city patrol, Hartmut Scherer told the Frankfurter Rundschau.
It was also reported that people were more polite to police officers, and their choice of words more respectful when they saw the cameras, although they did not know that audio was not being recorded.
Further pilot projects are being planned for Frankfurt, after which a decision will be made whether to deploy a mobile video team at certain spots across Hesse.
"There are negative and positive aspects to the video idea," a spokesman for the GdP told The Local.
"On one hand they should not be used to record everything a police officer does, that would be an unacceptable intrusion into their work. Any union would oppose the idea of their members being constantly watched while at work. But it could increase safety in some circumstances."
The GdP is calling for an extension of the criminal law on resisting a police officer so that it is no longer only relevant during direct law enforcement - when an officer is doing something - but so it also applies when an officer is not active.
This would mean that attacking a police officer who was simply patrolling on the edges of a demonstration would attract a more serious charge than simple assault - the fact that the victim was a representative of the state would make the criminal charge more serious.
"This is our next aim, and it seems some optimism on this front could be justified," the GdP spokesman said.