Changes to German Police Policy Spark Fears of Surveillance and Racial Profiling

Stun guns, WhatsApp surveillance and expanding police operations: the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) government says the measures will boost security in Germany’s most populous state. Legal experts say otherwise. DW takes a look at six of the biggest and most controversial changes that would go into effect if the draft law is approved.

1. Vague wording for ‘imminent danger’

One of the key points of the new law concerns expanding the opportunities for police to launch operations. The state government has proposed adding the terms “imminent danger,” “imminent terrorist danger” and “potential offender” [in German, “Gefährder”] to the state’s police law.

Until now, the law has only made a distinction between concrete and abstract danger. Under the current rules, police can take action if they have evidence showing concrete plans for a crime. Should the law go into effect, police would be allowed to launch an operation if they believe there’s the threat of a crime or attack.

2. Longer preventive custody

The new law would also lengthen the detention of “potential offenders” — also known as “preventive custody” — before they have committed a crime. Under the new rules, a person whom police accuse of involvement in an imminent terrorist threat could be detained for up to one month. The current maximum is set at 48 hours.

Legal experts and Amnesty International have pointed out that people being held would not have committed crimes, and would receive fewer protections than official suspects. For example, they would not be provided with public defenders.

Read more on Deutsche Welle.