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Frankfurt dissolves elite police unit over far-right chats

The German state of Hesse on Thursday said it was dissolving Frankfurt's elite police force after several officers wereaccused of participating in far-right online chats and swapping neo-Nazi symbols.

Frankfurt dissolves elite police unit over far-right chats
Police in Frankfurt on May 19th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The “unacceptable conduct” of some members of the SEK special deployment commando made the dissolution of the team “inevitable”, said Hesse state interior minister Peter Beuth.

An expert committee will oversee a complete restructuring of the unit, he
added.

It comes a day after prosecutors in the western city of Frankfurt said they
were investigating 20 police officers, including elite commandos, over
extremist material shared in chat groups.

Seventeen of the accused are suspected of distributing content which
incites racial hatred, or of sharing neo-Nazi images.

Three officers stand accused of obstruction of justice because, as
superiors, they allegedly failed to stop or sanction the chats.

READ ALSO: Germany opens fresh probe against police over neo-Nazi chats

The probe was launched in April, authorities said. Most of the offending
content was exchanged in 2016-17, with the most recent from 2019.

The accused are all male and range in age from 29 to 54. Nineteen are
active police officers and one retired.

The probe began with allegations against a 38-year-old SEK officer in
Frankfurt accused of sharing illicit content including child pornography.
A search of his mobile phone uncovered some of the racist chats in question.

The case is only the latest example of alleged extremism in the ranks of
the German police.

Last September, officers in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia swooped on colleagues accused of spreading what prosecutors
called “repulsive” far-right propaganda in WhatsApp groups.

Last July, prosecutors announced the arrest of a former police officer and
his wife suspected of having sent threatening emails to politicians and other
public figures across Germany.

The anonymous messages were all signed “NSU 2.0”, a reference to a German neo-Nazi cell that committed a string of racist murders in the 2000s.

Also last year, Germany’s defence minister ordered the partial dissolution
of the elite KSK commando force over right-wing extremism.

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POLICE

German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.

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