Police in Cologne, Germany are under fire from the German left after they overtly used racial profiling to prevent a wave of sexual assaults during New Year celebrations.
Last year, Cologne was the subject of international scandal after groups of young men, mostly of African or Middle Eastern heritage, systematically surrounded, groped, raped and robbed women during New Year festivities in the city center. The massive scale of the attacks was initially downplayed by both the police and the media, apparently in partial fear it would arouse animosity against foreigners.
This year, Cologne police were far better prepared. More than 3,000 police were deployed to monitor Saturday night’s festivities, including 300 in the square near Cologne’s iconic cathedral. Not only that, but police have openly admitted they engaged in racial profiling to ensure they properly monitored young Muslim men.
In a tweet, police for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia said they had processed thousands of “Nafris,” or North Africans, on Saturday night.
— Polizei NRW K (@polizei_nrw_k) December 31, 2016
The measures were apparently successful, as Cologne avoided the massive crime wave it saw last year.
But some in Germany aren’t happy, and are blasting police for using tactics they say were racist and discriminatory.
“[This was] sweeping prejudice against an entire group of people based on their appearance,” said Christopher Lauer, a former politician for the Pirate and Social Democratic parties, according to Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public international broadcaster.
But Cologne police chief Jürgen Mathies isn’t backing down. While he admitted using the term “Nafris” online may have been ill-advised, he says racial profiling was a matter of necessity. Groups of men “comparably aggressive” to those seen last year were out in the streets, he said, and needed police to check them. He backed up his claim with numbers, noting that Cologne police had arrested 27 people and detained another 92.
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