Why reluctance to wear masks is leading to stress for German police forces

Why reluctance to wear masks is leading to stress for German police forces
Police officers in Cologne. Photo: DPA
Germany's police unions have warned that more and more disputes over corona rules are escalating, resulting in aggression against officers.

“There is still a high level of acceptance for the Corona rules, but we also sense that the mood is beginning to become more aggressive – for example, when we as the police want to enforce the corona rules,” Jörg Radek, deputy head of GdP the police union told DPA. 

“That is where resistance comes in. It starts with insults, then there is aggression, spitting, coughing. Our colleagues are experiencing all this in this pandemic,” he added.

The problems were not only being caused by so-called 'mask refusers'. Citizens who wanted to be protected have also been demanding that police take more action – or in some cases have aggressively confronted the 'mask refusers'. 

The head of the DPolG union, Rainer Wendt, pointed out that there are no statistics for such assaults. 

“But there are more and more reports from the police staff that the acceptance of the corona rules has decreased overall and that increasingly open and aggressive attitudes are being seen against emergency forces who are supposed to control and enforce compliance with the rules,” Wendt said.

Mask wearing rules, first introduced in April, are a particular point of conflict.

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Recently, in a supermarket in Zwickau, Saxony, a man starting swinging an axe around when he was told it was compulsory to wear a mask. 

In Mülheim in North Rhine-Westphalia, a 66-year-old woman hit a 55-year-old man with her car outside a supermarket, injuring him slightly. Before the incident, the man had asked the woman to wear a mask and to keep her distance. 

In Kaufbeuren, Bavaria, five police officers suffered minor injuries after they were sent to a bar to check whether the corona rules were being followed. Also in rail traffic, where masks are compulsory, controls often escalate.

DPolG boss Wendt says the reason lies in unclear regulations. People are unwilling to adhere to the rules, he argues, because politicians haven't properly explained why they exist.

From Radek's point of view, however, it is not so much the contradictory regulations that cause controversy. 

“Many people simply feel annoyed by the rules. If alcohol is added or group dynamics exist, this can lead to further escalation,” he said.

For the police, the enforcement of the corona rules has provided an additional burden. 

On the one hand, the danger of infection increases the already existing occupational risk. On the other hand, the workload has increases as police are increasingly called out to assist public order officers. 

“Officers who are used for health protection, are missing in other places,” said Radek. Wendt also sees this burden: “But at the moment there are no alternatives to police controls if Germany wants to continue to get through the crisis well,” he said.

READ MORE: Who is (and isn't) wearing a face mask in Germany?


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