World News

German government to commission institutional racism study

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government will commission a study of institutional racism in society, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday, after a series of scandals in which police officers and soldiers were found to be harbouring far-right sentiments.

The study will include a component specifically examining racism in the police, as part of a compromise between the Social Democrats, who have long demanded such a study, and conservative interior minister Horst Seehofer, who was opposed.

Last month, 29 police officers were suspended for sharing pictures of Adolf Hitler and doctored images of refugees in gas chambers in private chats, in the most dramatic of recent incidents where uniformed state officials were found to be indulging in private the kind of racist attitudes they are duty-bound to oppose.

Calls for a study of racist attitudes in the police have been lent added weight by the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, with activists saying the attitudes that led to the killing by a policeman of George Floyd, a Black man, could also be found in German law enforcement.

But Seehofer, who has always resisted calls for a study that singled out police as perpetrators of racism, said this latest study was not the one that activists had sought.

“There will be no study looking at allegations and aspersions cast against the police,” he said. The compromise study will also consider violence and hate directed against police.

Activists and some politicians have long accused the police of not doing enough to unearth potentially violent nationalists in their ranks, a sensitive issue in Germany where awareness of the World War Two genocide of millions of Jews by the Nazis under Hitler is strong.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Gareth Jones