You observed a violation in your professional environment and now want to report it? You can find information on reporting offices and what you need to be aware of as a public sector employee on our information platform (in German).
If people stand up for democracy, for lawful and non-discriminatory action and against racism and extremism, we as a society speak of civil courage, of activism and public spirit. If, on the other hand, people point out violations of the law or the constitution at their workplace or elsewhere, they have to put up with completely different labels: Nest-foulers, traitors, denunciators. However, the consequences of a reprimand usually go much further than derogatory words. From discrimination and bullying in the work environment to dismissal - people who report grievances expose themselves to great risk.
Whistleblowers make an invaluable contribution to more transparency, diversity and the rule of law. They set effective causes against corruption, abuse of the law and anti-constitutional developments. The aim of our project is therefore to stand up for whistleblowers and their protection. Our focus is explicitly on the police.
WHISTLEBLOWING IN THE POLICE IS PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT - AND PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT
In a closely knit public authority like the police, it is often difficult to report observed misconduct. The sometimes dangerous work demands that you can rely on each other, perhaps even with your lives. This creates a strong bond that can prevent colleagues from reporting even serious violations.
But transparency is indispensable, especially in the police. This is because the police have far-reaching powers of action, such as measures to restrict freedom, searches and the use of direct coercion. All this encroaches deeply on our fundamental rights. Abuse of these powers, and thus dwindling confidence in the rule of law, must be prevented by all means.
Currently, misconduct within the police usually only comes to light by chance. However, media reports about incidents of racist or sexist attacks, as well as right-wing extremist tendencies, show that more transparency is urgently needed.
With our project, we want to normalise the reporting of grievances and misconduct and make it an accepted procedure within the police. We pursue this goal with three different strategies:
1. NEEDS ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION
In order to create an empirical basis for our project, a study on whistleblowing in the police will be carried out with both qualitative and quantitative elements: On the one hand, interviews with police officers will be conducted on the practice of whistleblowing and the effects of the new legal situation, the handling of reports and the motivational situation for whistleblowing. On the other hand, an external scientific institution will conduct and evaluate in-depth interviews with police officers on the topic.
2. EDUCATION AND INFORMATION
A large part of our work involves informing police officers about their rights in the case of whistleblowing. This is done on the one hand via an online information portal explicitly for the police, for which we cooperate with police officers, associations and competent bodies wherever possible. At the same time, we offer training and further education on this topic for police officers, both in training and in active police service. We promote whistleblowing as a contribution to a police force based on the rule of law and offer information on the legal situation as well as on specific reporting procedures at internal and external reporting offices. In appropriate cases, we support police officers with questions on whistleblowing.
3. ADVOCACY AND POLICY WORK
The last pillar of our project is to present our findings and experiences from the above areas to decision-makers at the federal and state levels. We contribute to the evaluation of the Whistleblower Protection Act, position ourselves for the closing of existing protection gaps, especially for police officers, and approach the state legislators or ministries of the interior/police directorates for this purpose. We are linking up on the topic and building up a support group for whistleblowing in the police. To this end, we are in contact with police universities, trade unions and police associations.
THE WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ACT - A FIRST STEP
In May 2023, after a long struggle, the Bundestag implemented the Whistleblowing Directive of the European Union. The Whistleblower Protection Act (HinSchG), which came into force on 2 July, provides for the first time concrete and comprehensive regulations on procedures and protection in the event of whistleblowing. According to the HinSchG, companies and public authorities, including the police, must now set up internal (i.e. at the specific authority) and external reporting offices (state offices outside the specific employer) for violations.
Whistleblowers cannot be held responsible for proper reporting in accordance with the law. Nor should they be subject to reprisals (such as dismissal, poor evaluation, hostility, discrimination) for reporting violations.
Nevertheless, there are still gaps in the law, especially in the protection of whistleblowers in security authorities. For example, anonymous reporting and compensation for immaterial damages are not provided for. In addition, fines for employers who do not comply with the law have been reduced from 100,000 to 50,000. This does not provide an adequate deterrent effect.
STRENGTHENING WHISTLEBLOWING WITH STRATEGIC LITIGATION
Within the framework of the project "Report it", the GFF also plans to defend the rights of whistleblowers in court with strategic litigation. For this, we can draw on the expertise we gained in a past whistleblowing lawsuit.
Together with the peace activist Hermann Theisen, we were able to achieve an acquittal. Theisen had given employees of arms companies information on how to report violations of the law - and was charged with "incitement to commit a crime".
PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH: A WHISTLEBLOWING POLICY FOR CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS
To set a good example, we have developed a whistleblowing policy for civil society organisations together with other NGOs. With this policy, the participating organisations commit to comprehensive internal measures to protect whistleblowers. To this end, we are setting up a joint internal reporting office and comprehensively protecting whistleblowers from reprisals.
The voluntary commitment applies to all organisations as of 1 January 2023. In addition to GFF, Transparency International Germany, Whistleblower Network, LobbyControl and foodwatch have signed the policy so far. We call on all civil society organisations to participate.
The protection provided by our Whistleblowing Policy goes beyond the requirements of the EU Directive. We protect whistleblowers not only when they report violations of the law, but also when there is evidence of other significant misconduct, such as abuse of power. We also allow anonymous reporting and disclosure to the press in cases of strong public interest. The policy thus also serves as a model for other organisations and for good legislation.