interim report on illegal police force research project

Posted by tetley at 2020-02-17

The survey shows a considerable dark field. One reason for this is that those concerned underestimate the chances of success of a complaint.

The researchers of the Chair of Criminology of the Ruhr University of Bochum (RUB) by Prof. Dr. Tobias Singelnstein in the first part of the project "Physical injury in office by police officers" (Kviapol) were able to evaluate 3.300 reports. After completing the online survey, they present an interim report. It shows, among other things, that in 86% of the reported incidents no criminal proceedings were carried out, i.e. the cases were not included in the statistics. Over 70% of respondents report physical injuries.

As always in the case of victimisation surveys, experience and assessments of respondents have been gained in the study. The data thus reflect their perspective on the use of violence experienced. The sample is not representative because of the chosen recruitment strategy. The second part of the study, which is still in progress until the 2020-year, consists of 60 interviews with experts from the police, justice and civil society.

Dominating demonstrations and football

More than nine and a half weeks between November 2018 and January 2019 the online survey ran. 3.375 cases were analysed. It appeared that most of the reported incidents, 55 percent, had taken place during demonstrations and political actions. 25-percent of the cases took place around football games and other major events. Other bets are 20 per cent of the total sample.

The respondents are generally male, in addition to being young and highly educated. "The average age of those affected at the time of the incident is at 26-year-old," says Tobias Singelnstein. 71 Percentage of respondents have professional or university qualifications. 16-percent have a migration background.

The bigger the place, the higher the risk

Incidents from municipalities of all sizes have been reported. However, the number of reported cases is steadily increasing with the size of the locality and is highest in large cities. The location of the reported use of force by police officers was mainly the public area. The use of force in police vehicles or police premises was less frequent, but at least twenty per cent.

In most cases, violence occurred quickly: 54 per cent of respondents reported that it lasted less than two minutes from first contact to the exercise of violence. It took more than ten minutes very rarely.

Weapons don't matter.

The respondents described a wide range of forms of violence. Overall, lighter to moderate forms dominated. Shots and blows have been reported very frequently. Also commonly mentioned were holding or too hard touching, kicking and restraining or fixing. "The forms of violence used in the reported cases differed according to the occasion for police contact," Singelnstein said. "For example, the use of pepper spray played a significant role, especially at major events, especially in football games. The use of distance electron pulse devices, also known as tasers, or firearms has been reported only occasionally and hardly plays any part in the overall show."

Physical injuries and psychological consequences

71 Percentage of respondents suffered physical injuries due to violence. 19 percent reported suffering severe injuries, such as fractures of the bones, severe head injuries or internal injuries. On average, respondents experienced severe pain from all situations of use. Two-thirds reported that the recovery took several hours or days. For 31% of respondents, the healing process lasted several weeks or longer; four percent reported even lasting damage. In addition to the physical consequences, the respondents also reported significant psychological consequences such as fear or avoidance.

Survey shows significant dark field

In the non-representative sample of the study, a large proportion of the reported cases remained in the dark, thus not leading to criminal proceedings. "If only the cases in which information on the initiation of proceedings is available, this percentage is 86 per cent", said Singelnstein. "In the sample of the study, therefore, the dark field is approximately six times larger than the light field."

According to the reports, the main reason why those concerned abstained was because they assumed that they would be unsuccessful anyway. Indeed, a look at the statistics of the judiciary shows that criminal proceedings against police officers for unlawful acts of violence have a strikingly high recruitment rate and a particularly low indictment rate.


The project is financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.