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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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PROTESTS

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.

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