Where does police violence come from?

After George Floyd's death, racially motivated police violence in Europe has also come under the spotlight of public debate. Commentators discuss the motives for police brutality.

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Der Freitag (DE) /

Right-wingers feel at home in the police force

Jakob Augstein, publisher of Der Freitag, rejects the claim that police forces are just a mirror of society:

“Leftists and environmentalists rarely become police officers. In the ranks of the police there is little chance of meeting anyone other than right-wing social democrats, conservatives and, increasingly, those on the far right. But what is correct is that the more right-wing, racist ideas spread in society, the greater the problem becomes and the more we'll have to keep tabs on the police.”

RTV Slovenija (SI) /

Brutal cops as evening entertainment

RTV Slovenija reminds us that police violence has long since become ubiquitious on television in the form of reality shows:

“These TV shows, which show real police officers - wearing body cameras - as well as real criminals, feature dramatic commentary. They have a suspense factor, and a producer and a director probably have a hand in them too. They have record ratings and are mainly meant for entertainment. Now we have a murder video that is almost identical to the scenes in these shows. ... In other words, before the murder of George Floyd became a crime, it was first - at least on some TV programmes - a constantly available source of entertainment.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Police officers no better than the rest of society

taz newspaper has published videos and images documenting police violence during a demonstration last Saturday in Berlin. The paper says the images are proof that German police officers also exercise undue force:

“Such incidents - but also allegedly random checks that tend to target people with black skin - occur again and again. And all things considered it's not surprising. If a not insignificant portion of the German population has racist tendencies, why should police officers be immune to them? ... For that reason the attempts by some politicians and trade unionists to maintain that police officers as a group are not racist not only make a mockery of the victims, they also simply refuse to acknowledge the reality. But at the same time it would be just as wrong to maintain that the German police are racist through and through.”

Politis (FR) /

Just doing what the government tells them to

Like George Floyd in the US, Adama Traoré died in France as a result of a violent arrest. There is one reason in particular for the fact that racially-motivated police checks often take place there too, Politis writes:

“Police action is too closely linked to government policy. The scandal over skin colour controls is the unacceptable but very real consequence of social discrimination and a disastrous urban development policy. It is the local version - or should I say the police version - of a policy that is not decided at the local level. ... The police do more or less what they're told to do. Certainly, no one is telling them to be racist - and let it be said that the majority of police are probably not racist - nevertheless they are put in a position where they can be.”