BERLIN – German authorities disbanded an elite police unit and suspended 18 of its active members after they were found to be involved in a chat group exchanging racist messages and glorifying the Nazis, Hesse interior minister Said Thursday.
The move against the unit – roughly analogous to a SWAT team in the United States – in Frankfurt is the German government’s latest attempt to highlight an increase in the far-right networks in several state security units and the military. Police officers in several states have been fired or reprimanded for their participation in such chat groups, where content such as hook boxes, Hitler images and postings against foreigners are shared on social media.
In the central state of Hesse alone, the latest revelations bring the number of police officers who have been or are being investigated for far-right sympathy to nearly 100. Günter Rudolph, a Social Democrat lawmaker, described the Frankfurt case as “staggering” evidence of a serious problem in Hesse’s police. ”
The recent chat group included three supervisory officials from the elite group, although they were apparently inactive, which made the dissolution of the entire unit inevitable, according to state authorities.
The 18 suspended officers are facing charges related to communicating symbols banned by the constitution and racist hate speech, and the supervisors will face additional charges for not intervening or reporting the conversations.
“The unacceptable misconduct of several members as well as the blindness of immediate superiors in the SEC Frankfurt necessitated its dissolution,” Peter Huth, Hesse’s Home Secretary, said in a statement referring to the SWAT. kind of unity through his German initials.
Mr. Rudolph and other state lawmakers have urged police and conservative government leaders, including Mr. Beuth, criticized for their tendency to dismiss episodes involving police officers with right-wing tendencies as solitary matters, and the broader problem of like-minded groups and individuals across the country.
In the main development of the country’s efforts to eradicate extremism in law enforcement and the military, the Ministry of Defense was forced last year to become a full-fledged combat company of the country’s most elite special forces unit, known under its German initials, KSK, to dissolve. due to right infiltration.
Authorities took the dramatic step after authorities conducted a comprehensive investigation into far-right structures in the unit and just six weeks after authorities dug up an illegal weapons store in the backyard of one of the company’s soldiers.
According to officials, the chat room was most active in 2016 and 2017, and it was found by chance when the mobile devices of a member of the unit were analyzed for child pornography in an unrelated case.
The Frankfurt State Attorney’s Office investigated 20 men between the ages of 29 and 54 who belonged to two different chat groups, where they mocked refugees and shared Nazi symbols. Of these, 18 were SEC members for active duty, one in another police unit and one had already retired.
The investigation was first announced on Wednesday when authorities raided 6 homes and suspended all 18 elite police officers.
Police in Frankfurt, where the elite unit was based, have been scrutinized in the past. A series of far-right threats to immigrant activists, lawyers and politicians that began in 2018 have been traced back to police computers in the city.
In one case, a police computer used to gain access to the personal information of a threatened female lawyer was linked to a police officer belonging to a separate legal chat group.
Last month, police arrested a man in Berlin for the threats. The man was not connected to the police, but those who were threatened suspected sympathetic members of the police force were involved in the case.
Stefan Müller, head of the state police in Hesse, said the state police would rebuild a SEC unit to replace the old one, but it would be restructured with a stronger emphasis on accountable leadership.
“They are one of the guarantees of safety and should therefore be all the more free from unacceptable misconduct,” he said.