Is a lecturer at a police academy allowed to speak out publicly about right-wing and racist forces in the police force? Not if the police academy in North Rhine-Westphalia has its way. Because it had withdrawn its lecturer for "Intercultural Competence", Bahar Aslan, her teaching assignment after she had expressed concern in a tweet about right-wing extremist and racist forces in the security authorities.
Aslan has been teaching at the police academy since January 2022. In May, the university gave her a new teaching assignment before the conflict arose. Because of the critical remarks in her tweet, the college calls Aslan "unfit" to continue teaching the course and has revoked the teaching contract. At the same time, the university has ordered the immediate execution of the revocation. Together with attorney Patrick Heinemann, we opposed this unlawful measure with an application to the Gelsenkirchen Administrative Court for restoration of the suspensive effect pursuant to Section 80 (5) VwGO - and won. The Gelsenkirchen Administrative Court confirmed our assessment and criticized, among other things, the fact that the university had not carried out an overall assessment of Bahar Aslan's professional suitability. Positive factors were completely disregarded - such as her good performance as a teacher. Students had consistently rated Aslan positively.
Importance of freedom of expression misunderstood
In her tweet, Aslan recounts her experience with the police as a person of color. She "gets heart palpitations" when she or one of her friends is stopped by the police. She says security authorities scare People of Color rather than protect them.
These statements by Aslan about her highly personal experiences are protected by freedom of expression. They do not constitute grounds for revoking a teaching assignment. By its sanction, the police academy violated Aslan's fundamental rights.
Right-wing extremist incidents have occurred and continue to occur in the police force of North Rhine-Westphalia. In 2020, a chat group of around 30 police officers, in which right-wing extremist content was shared, received particular media attention. The fact that "intercultural competence" is increasingly being taught at police colleges in North Rhine-Westphalia was a reaction to the right-wing extremist chats becoming known. To counter this, the perspective of racialized people should also be more strongly reflected in police training.
The fact that the police academy is now withdrawing the teaching assignment of a lecturer because she names racist and right-wing extremist currents shows that the authorities are continuing old patterns: When there is public criticism of police abuses, naming them is problematized instead of addressing the problem.
This behavior, known as "tone policing," describes how people who voice criticism are accused of not voicing it appropriately. This avoids having to deal with the actual criticism of the other person. Female people of color in particular are silenced with the help of this tactic.