Tightened police laws in German federal states – GFF is taking action
Police laws are currently being tightened in almost all German federal states. The shift towards earlier police intervention is particularly worrying. The police no longer need wait for a specific or “concrete danger” to justify intervening. Even in situations where the police are able to demonstrate only that a danger could arise at some point – a finding which, practically speaking, can virtually always be justified in one way or another – they are allowed to encroach on the civil rights of the suspected individual in a variety of ways. As a result, under these expanded powers many police measures ultimately no longer depend on any judicially recognizable justifications.
The new police laws provide the police with additional means of hidden surveillance. Evidence of online searches and source telecommunications has been introduced in many federal cases. The police can now conduct searches of IT systems and read and listen to computer communications. As a result, the fundamental right to the confidentiality and integrity of information technology systems is being infringed in an unprecedented manner. At the same time, the police and law enforcement authorities take advantage of the general destabilization of IT security by exploiting security gaps.
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The methods of open intervention have also grown dramatically. New powers include the use of electronic shackles and body cams, the extension of video surveillance in public places, the possibility of more expansive use of DNA profiling analysis, the extension of maximum detention periods, and the technical upgrading of police capabilities (e.g., hand grenades, stun guns, and drones).
GFF and its partners have already filed constitutional complaints against the new police laws in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse. We are also currently investigating a course of action against the changes in the police laws in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse. Moreover, GFF is highly involved in the reform debates in the other state parliaments and plans to take legal action against these newly expanded new police power.
The direct route to the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is available only with respect to matters involving covert surveillance and the application of particularly serious methods of intervention, such as the use of hand grenades. In the case of open and visible measures such as extended detention or video surveillance, legal action must be taken against the actual specific measure used – if necessary, up to the Federal Constitutional Court. GFF will choose suitable individual cases for such lawsuits.
- Overview of the changes of the police laws in the individual federal states by Amnesty International and GFF (in German).
- Constitutional complaint against the Bavarian Police Duties Act, by PD Dr. Mathias Hong and lawyer Hartmut Wächtler (in German).
- Constitutional complaint against the police law in Baden-Württemberg, by Prof. Dr. Tobias Singelnstein can be found here (in German).
- Expert opinion of Dr. Ulf Buermeyer for the public hearing on the drafts of a twelfth law to amend the Brandenburg Police Act – drafts of the state government and the CDU parliamentary group (in German).
The constitutional complaint against the Bavarian Police Duties Act has been the subject of numerous media reports. You can find the press review here (in German only).
A selection of media reports on the police law in Baden-Württemberg can be found here (in German only).
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