German states massively widen scope of police powers

Published 14.12.2018 00:00
Updated 14.12.2018 08:00

After Bavaria, the state legislature of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) late Wednesday passed a controversial law expanding police powers in the western German state, despite criticism that it would massively restrict civil liberties. The new law draft law prepared by the Christian Social Union (CSU) was approved by the Social Democrats.

"The attack in Strasbourg makes clear the importance of the police law," said North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Herbert Reul. The attack shows that "the danger of terrorism is real, that Europe is at the center of terrorism and that it is time to act," he said, as reported by Zeit Online.

The new law would enable police to search people without concrete suspicion, listen in on phone calls, look through personal computers and data stored online and carry out undercover investigations against individuals. The police would be allowed to share all findings with intelligence agencies. The use of online surveillance, facial recognition, postal seizures, drones, body cameras and preventative genetic DNA analyses is now part of police powers.

Several German states are also considering expanding the spying authority of police. The government of the German state of Lower Saxony will vote on a controversial law to broaden police powers next year.

In May, the southern German state of Bavaria also extended the spying authority of its police forces with a new controversial law. Listening to phones, spying on suspects and confiscating mail without a warrant has become legal for Bavarian police as the law draft law prepared by the ruling Christian Social Union (CSU) was approved by the state parliament in May. In 2017, the state of Bavaria took the first step to strengthen its police force by adopting the Law on Effective Surveillance of Dangerous Persons. This law made it easier to detain terrorist suspects and anyone whom the police see as a future threat, even if the person is not a criminal. However, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Munich to protest the policing law.

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