He’s only been in office a few months ago, but he already has a big agenda: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s interior minister, on a Christian level. In an interview with the Spiegel authorities, the Social Democrat commented, among other things, on the challenges in the areas of training and digitization. Asking questions by Uwe Bruhl and Marco Feldman.
power mirror: Mr. Level, you are the new Home Secretary of the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. What is at the top of your agenda?
Christian level: It is especially important for us at the moment to assign sufficient staff to the police and fire and disaster protection departments. That’s what’s driving us pretty much right now. We really want to have about 6,200 police stations here. At the moment, only 5900 of them have been occupied. We have to train hard in order to make up for the retirement-related departures in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and also to build up our overall strength. We also have to make sure that as many people as possible actually complete their training in this field.
power mirror: What is important to you?
level: I am convinced that we can greatly relieve cops and officers on the street through digitization and keep them on duty for longer. In addition, they will then have to return to the office less frequently during their shifts to do clerical work. Good digitization in the police force fosters interest in this profession among young people. I’m sure of that. At the same time, we have been tasked by the State Parliament with the task of transparently explaining possible misconduct in individual police departments in the past. There is now a commission of inquiry in the Schwerin state parliament for this purpose.
power mirror: Recently, based on a situation report issued by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the numbers of potential extremists in the security services were known. Nationwide, there is talk of about 330 people. What is the situation in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern?
level: Thank God these people are a very small part of the workforce. But the same applies here: each of them is one case too many, which raises the fears of citizens and undermines confidence in the security authorities. Unfortunately, we at Mecklenburg-Vorpommern rank first in the report if you measure the number of cases as a percentage of the total number of employees.
power mirror: What do you intend to do about it?
level: These are very honest numbers, as we have meticulously investigated with our security services over the past few years. We have initiated a large number of disciplinary actions and the experience of administrative courts behaving very constructively, which often supports our approach. We have also removed employees from service for their proven extremist behaviour. Here, however, the federal and state governments must once again seek better solutions in terms of legal options and talk about traditional principles of professional civil service and disciplinary law. It is very difficult to accept the fact that people are clearly right-wing extremists and cannot be removed from the service. It cannot be explained to citizens that enemies of the constitution can continue to operate within state bodies. More consistency is needed here.
power mirror: Do you think there is a need for more stringent penalties in combating attacks on police officers? The latest tightening seems to have brought nothing.
level: It is true that tougher sanctions alone will not bring the solution. However, I think we have to keep checking to see if there is a need for improvements and sharpening the individual points in the Penal Code. However, this alone is not enough. Combating violence against members of the public service is important to society as a whole that politics alone cannot address. It is also important to clearly recognize the state’s monopoly on the use of force, stigmatizing violence against the police and removing perpetrators. This requires a clear commitment from the community. Criminal law alone is not enough.
power mirror: How do you explain extremism in the demonstrations against Corona protection measures?
level: There is a small radical group unfortunately grown. Feeling powerless at the mercy of government measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic appears to have pushed some to extremism. But for the time being, mobilization has fallen significantly again. However, there is still a group that clearly no longer feels politically involved and is convinced that they have the truth themselves. This makes discussions very difficult. However, politics and society will have the task of approaching this group again and again.
power mirror: What measures do you think are still required?
level: We have to see again if the criminal law against hate and hate speech on the Internet can be tightened. Often there are no longer any contraindications. In my opinion, this is unacceptable. It also needs more police pressure. In addition, the informational competence of citizens must be enhanced.
power mirror: And what needs to be done to digitize the police force?
level: The digitization of the police force is carried out in close coordination between the federal and state governments. We will continue to move on this coordinated nationwide corridor. In the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, I would like to gather in one place the various digitization projects that are currently taking place in the state police. This is to become a kind of police IT service provider. In addition, with the digitization of the police force, we must not forget about the criminal police. In the future, no police officer will need a notebook anymore. Achieving this task will take many years.
power mirror: Will the State Police be equipped with more force, for example with remote electrical pulse devices or body cameras?
level: Within the current government coalition in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, it is indisputable that we do not initially take a close look at remote electrical stimulation devices. We will not be equipping them with Radio Patrol Kits at this time. Because these forces have already reached the limits of what is possible in terms of the equipment they carry with them. There is hardly any weight that they carry on their bodies. Instead, we focused on body cameras, which we now want to spread across the board. We want to have a de-escalation effect. This appears to be working.
The full video interview can be found here.