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DATENERHEBUNG BEI DER BERLINER POLIZEI Berlin von wal_172619, lizensiert unter Pixabay License
Equal rights and Social Participation
Art. 1, 2, 3

Racial Profiling: data collection by the Berlin police

The Berlin police unlawfully collect data on the ethnicity of suspects. After our complaint, the Berlin Data Protection Commissioner objected to this practice.

Following a complaint by the Society for Civil Rights and the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, the Berlin Data Protection Commissioner has issued a complaint against the Berlin police. The police unlawfully recorded data on suspects belonging to the ethnic group of the Sinti and Roma. The GFF is examining further possibilities for legal action and complaints.

The GFF, together with the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, launched a complaint procedure with the Berlin Data Protection Commissioner on suspicion of discrimination against Sinti and Roma. In the 2017 crime statistics, the Berlin police provided information on the ethnicity of suspects. However, the police denied collecting the underlying data on ethnicity. Together with the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma and the Berlin youth organisation Amaro Foro, the GFF is campaigning to verify whether the police's data collection is lawful.

With regard to the 2017 crime statistics, Interior Senator Geisel rowed back after initial resistance in mid-January 2020. He had the discriminatory reference to Sinti and Roma deleted from the online version of the statistics and promised to re-examine whether data on ethnic origin was being collected unlawfully. On 9 July and 6 August, the Berlin Data Protection Commissioner examined relevant files at the police station. The data protection commissioner only makes use of this right in rare cases. In January 2020, the data protection commissioner then objected to two violations of the law by the Berlin police at the same time: firstly, she found that the Berlin police had indeed unlawfully collected data on the ethnicity of crime suspects (section 33 (1) no. 2 BlnDSG). Secondly, the police had prevented a more detailed examination and violated their legal obligations by refusing to hand over information (sections 13 (4) no. 2, 54 BlnDSG).

In the Berlin Police Crime Statistics 2017, there was a reference that the suspects for committing trick theft in flats were predominantly members of the Sinti and Roma ethnic group. The very assumption that ethnicity is relevant and should be collected is based on racist and antiziganist prejudices. Once recorded, the police banks also threaten to become the basis for "racial profiling", i.e. discriminatory police work in which suspicion of a crime is at least also linked to ethnicity or race. Recording the ethnicity of suspects of an entire crime group is therefore indisputably illegal. After our complaint and public pressure, Interior Senator Geisel had the reference removed in January 2020.

The statistical collection of data on ethnic minorities is illegal under fundamental rights, but also under data protection law. This is already clear from the provisions of the State Data Protection Act, which thus concretises the prohibition of discrimination in Article 3 (3) of the Basic Law. In addition, the Federal Republic has also committed itself to that under international law. Germany has not only ratified the UN Convention against Racism, but also the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Special recording in crime statistics reinforces antiziganist prejudice

According to a study by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, Roma are the group most affected by discrimination in Europe. In Germany, that culminated in the systematic deportation and murder of members of the ethnic group under the Nazi regime. Up to the present, the data collection and criminalisation of Sinti and Roma has always played a central role in their systematic exclusion.

Special "Gypsy" and "Landfahrer" police databases have been documented since the late 19th century and at least until the 1980s. Until 1982, police crime statistics at the federal level also recorded references to "Landfahrer", which meant Sinti and Roma. The special recording in the Berlin crime statistics is therefore not a coincidence, but is based on the stereotype of criminal Sinti and Roma - and reinforces it. The consequences of this are very real for many people: people who actually or supposedly belong to the ethnic group of Sinti and Roma are massively discriminated against in all situations of life. The statistical registration of Sinti and Roma for the purposes of police work must be ended once and for all, both from a legal point of view and in view of a special German responsibility.

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