German police using their guns less

Despite increasing violence against police, officers are reaching for their weapons less often, statistics from the IMK association of state interior ministers showed on Wednesday.

German police using their guns less
Photo: DPA

The number of cases in which police fired warning shots sank to just 51 in 2009, the lowest number in 12 years, according to IMK documents obtained by news agency DPA.

Among these incidents police were forced to shoot directly at people 33 times, ultimately killing six – the lowest level since 2003, when three people were killed by police bullets. The majority of these shootings were classified as self-defence, while the rest were intended to stop fleeing suspects, free a hostage, or stop a crime from occurring.

Meanwhile the number of people injured by police shots fell to 21 – a number that was only lower in 2006 and 2008, when there were only 15 such injured in each year, the statistics showed.

“Those who perhaps expected that police shoot more often, should inform themselves again. The opposite is the case,” German Police Union (DPoIG) head Rainer Wendt said. “Though our colleagues are faced with ever-growing dangers, they react with pronounced caution and are everything other than trigger happy.”

DPoIG statistics show that attacks on police have risen significantly in the last 15 years. Detailed numbers will be available later this year, but current information measuring “resistance against authority” showed 28,000 cases in 2008, compared to 17,000 in 2005.

This may come as a surprise to those following two cases of police violence that have recently made national headlines.

On Tuesday, three Berlin police officers went on trial for firing eight deadly shots at close-range on a 26-year-old suspect in the Brandenburg town of Schönfließ in 2008. One officer faces manslaughter charges, while the other two are accused of hindering the investigation against their colleague. The three are said to have ambushed the suspect after receiving a tip on his whereabouts from his girlfriend.

Another case against two police officers who fired 16 times at a 24-year-old student in April 2009 is still under investigation in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg. The young man, identified as Tennessee Eisenberg, was armed with a knife, and some reports have said he was shot in the back.

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.