Interior ministers discuss changes to criminal law: What interests are actually being pursued here??
In the run-up to the conference of interior ministers starting on Wednesday, Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Pistorius has now also signaled support for the latest plan from Hesse and Saarland to tighten the penalties for violence against police officers.
Violence against police officers is not acceptable, is the mantra of this film – and as against all other professions or people in general, this is to be agreed with in principle and without any reservation. However, when it comes to the question of whether a special norm is needed to protect police officers from violence, whether punishments need to be tightened up repeatedly for the sake of deterring potential offenders, or whether other ies should not be on the agenda, things look quite different.
Police action takes place on the high seas, in a sense. It is part of the everyday work of police officers to act in acute conflict situations. When people in the police profession act against strikers, settle a dispute or pursue offenders, they themselves are often injured. It also happens that police officers are attacked and injured without intervening in the exercise of their authority or without having given any reason for a sudden attack against them.
Policemen and policewomen are protected by the penal code
In all these cases, policemen and policewomen are protected by the Criminal Code and by the criminal offenses against physical integrity. Depending on the intensity of the offence, an attacker faces prison sentences of between six months and ten years. Particularly serious consequences of such an act can even constitute a crime with a minimum prison sentence of one year.
What kind of deterrence of potential offenders is to be achieved, if now the increase of a penalty range to a minimum sentence of six months is demanded?? Or to put it another way: If it cannot be about deterring potential offenders, what interests are actually being pursued here, or what is the intention here to divert attention from?.
The resistance paragraph
To shed some light on this, let’s start with a look back to 2010: a Bundesrat initiative from Bavaria succeeded in putting the ie of violence against police officers on the agenda and toughening the penalties for the offense of resistance against law enforcement officers.
In almost flawless populism, the crime of fish poaching had to be used as proof for the inadmissibility of the threat of punishment, in order to make it clear on a regulars’ table level that violence against police officers really does not belong to be punished on such a low level. Nevertheless, a tightening of the law requires valid reasons, which in this case even the police could not easily provide. In order to ultimately be able to bring an increase in violence into the field at all, insulting police officers had to become the psychological violence had to be declared.
Not only in the face of such sleight of hand, the German Bundestag has become quite skeptical, because the resistance paragraph has no protective function at all with regard to the physical integrity of police officers. In the spirit of this factual parallel to the Fish poaching fuhrte die betreffende Bundestagsdrucksache zum Gesetzentwurf dann auch kritisch aus, dass the scope of protection of the resistance paragraph is limited to the performance of enforcement acts and thus serves to protect the authority of state enforcement acts, while the physical integrity of police officers is also protected primarily by the bodily injury offenses of the Criminal Code, which have always provided for the far higher threats of punishment compared with resistance.
But as it happens, with populism and the well-rehearsed partnership of convenience between domestic politics and the highly vocal professional representatives of the police, in the end it doesn’t seem to matter whether it is valid or not, and so the tightening of penalties has been in law for a good six years, despite all the misgivings and its lack of sense.