German Police fires Dozens of Bullets, kills 11

detrius

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...in 2018


56 bullets fired at people, 11 dead and 34 injured.

(German only, sorry)

Just a small update from the "how does law enforcement work in other countries" department and a quick reminder that Germany isn't a particularly peaceful nation, these are normal numbers for a developed country.
 

Tigger

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Surprised that's a reduction in the numbers. I was sure the figures were lower for Germany. Still it seems fairly reasonable for a police force that is armed as a matter of routine and it does represent a reduction in earlier years so its going in the right direction.

I wonder what rules German police have for the use of a gun, if they have to justify a choice to draw or fire their gun?
 

Tigger

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well thats good, but under what circumstances are they allowed to draw a weapon and aim it?
 

Innula Zenovka

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well thats good, but under what circumstances are they allowed to draw a weapon and aim it?
I suspect the answer to that must depend on the assumptions they are trained to make when confronting a suspect.

That's the big difference between the UK and the USA -- in the normal course of events, a non-specialist police officer in the UK won't normally expect to encounter anyone carrying a firearm as part of the regular course of his or her duties. In the USA, that doesn't apply, since so many guns are in circulation, so obviously they have to work on a very different set of assumptions and need different training.

I would think that the German police officer's assumptions about his or her daily environment are somewhat more similar to those of a British police officer than to those of an American one -- that is, that in the normal course of events, a suspect is unlikely to be carrying a firearm.
 
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Rose Karuna

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What's even more amazing is that they choose to track this. In the U.S. we can't get an accurate count of the number of people the police shoot unless it's reported in the news. There are independent news organizations tracking it but either the feds or the states or even cities are tracking. There is no official tracking or reporting process. It's as if they deliberately don't want to know.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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What's even more amazing is that they choose to track this. In the U.S. we can't get an accurate count of the number of people the police shoot unless it's reported in the news. There are independent news organizations tracking it but either the feds or the states or even cities are tracking. There is no official tracking or reporting process. It's as if they deliberately don't want to know.
The thing is that there is not one police law in Germany which regulates that, but 16. This is the result of Germany being a federal republic of 16 states, where each and every state has its own police force. And this large amount of states it the result of Germany being historically always a kingdom with a weak king, later emperor, which was very much dependant on his vasalls before the unification in 1871 happened. German vasalls only sweared obedience and aid to their liege lord, which could have been lower gentry up to higher one. Only at the end the highest gentries sweared this to their king or emperor. This is why historically Germany always consisted of dozens and before Napoleon happened sometimes hundreds of small shires and so on.

The opposite approach is France, where the vasalls always sweared to their liege lord and their king. This is why France always had a strong king, and so much stuff is centralised around Paris.

So the Federal government in Germany makes a general law only mentioning the rough edges, which the states used as base for their own police laws and giving there flesh to it.

By the way the reason why firearms in Germany are regulated is quite simple a lessonof the past WWI times: many soldiers returned home from the front with their skills, working firearms and ammunition; they were frustrated, riots and the revolution happened in 1918. This is why it is regulated, amongst other reasons.

So as a result this means that while the detailed regulations for deadly force might differ from state to state, the underlying principles are everywhere the same: the usage of deadly force is only allowed as ultima ratio to defend against acute danger for body or life; so if it would be enough to shoot into someone's leg to prevent this danger, deadly force is forbidden.

In some states the police officer can decide this on his own; in others his superior must allow it first. Some states don't have the deadly force in their police law, there it is only allowed for self-defense reasons or due to a state of emergency.

The concept was introduced in 1973 after the Munich massacre in 1972. During 1988 to 1997 5 people where shot due to the usage of deadly force. And today many police officers are equipped with tasers, which bring their own bag of problems with them.
 
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detrius

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Surprised that's a reduction in the numbers. I was sure the figures were lower for Germany. Still it seems fairly reasonable for a police force that is armed as a matter of routine and it does represent a reduction in earlier years so its going in the right direction.
The numbers have stayed on roughly the same level for decades.

In some years, it's 8 people - in some years it's 12.

Or a few more or less.

The numbers feel quite reasonable for a country with over 80 million people.

I wonder what rules German police have for the use of a gun, if they have to justify a choice to draw or fire their gun?

[...]

well thats good, but under what circumstances are they allowed to draw a weapon and aim it?
The article I cited gave an example of a man who threatened his wife with a knife.

When the police arrived at the familiy's apartment, he opened the door and approached the police officers, holding a knife in each hand. He was then shot and died.

In most instances when someone gets killed, it's because the police is acting in self-defense. There were a few incidents when they shot someone in order to protect an innocent bystander, but those are exceedingly rare.

The big difference, however, is how they approach a potentially dangerous situation.

U.S. police officers seem to be taught when it's okay to draw a weapon and shoot at people.

Police in Germany are trained to identify those situations and avoid getting into them altogether.


The way the police is used also makes a big difference. It's generally much less confrontational over here.

For example, there are almost no high-speed chases. If you violate the traffic rules in Germany, the police will just take a picture of your license plate. Then you'll get a letter with a fine a few weeks letter and maybe lose your drivers license.
 
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Sid

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Here in The Netherlands we had 27 times that the police used their fire arms in 2018, with 3 fatalities. 26 wounded.
Germany has a bit more than 4 times the number of inhabitants. So the numbers are in the same range.
 

Innula Zenovka

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The way the police is used also makes a big difference. It's generally much less confrontational over here.

For example, there are almost no high-speed chases. If you violate the traffic rules in Germany, the police will just take a picture of your license plate. Then you'll get a letter with a fine a few weeks letter and maybe lose your drivers license.
That's how it works here, too.

However, here most high-speed car chases involve drunk drivers, or teenagers driving cars they've stolen "for a joy ride," who, when signalled to stop by a police patrol, take off at high speed. (The two categories are not mutually exclusive, of course).

What happens in Germany when that happens? Obviously the police try to predict the suspect vehicle's route and to intercept it, blocking the road, and to summon a police helicopter to take over the pursuit, but they have to keep on the car's tail until other units are in position.
 
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detrius

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That's how it works here, too.

However, here most high-speed car chases involve drunk drivers, or teenagers driving cars they've stolen "for a joy ride," who, when signalled to stop by a police patrol, take off at high speed. (The two categories are not mutually exclusive, of course).

What happens in Germany when that happens? Obviously the police try to predict the suspect vehicle's route and to intercept it, blocking the road, and to summon a police helicopter to take over the pursuit, but they have to keep on the car's tail until other units are in position.
Well, they tail them, but keep a distance.

As opposed to the US, where the police actually may try ramming the suspect's vehicle.
 

Innula Zenovka

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Well, they tail them, but keep a distance.

As opposed to the US, where the police actually may try ramming the suspect's vehicle.
Yes, our police wouldn't try to ram them, except under very exceptional circumstances. That would be completely illegal unless the police had a bloody good reason for doing it, rather than waiting for backup to arrive and either box them in or (better if they have the time to set it up) put down one of those "stinger" pads that shoots up dozens of spikes when the car passes over, and chews up the tires.

It's almost always stupid teenagers or lads in their early 20s who, on being spotted by the cops doing something illegal, rather than give up and face the music, go off on a crazy car chase, which they're bound to lose, and automatically add Dangerous Driving (and an almost certain immediate custodial sentence of a couple of years, depending on how crazy the chase was) to whatever else they've done.

That's if they don't crash into anyone else before they can be stopped, of course.
 
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Innula Zenovka

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So as a result this means that while the detailed regulations for deadly force might differ from state to state, the underlying principles are everywhere the same: the usage of deadly force is only allowed as ultima ratio to defend against acute danger for body or life; so if it would be enough to shoot into someone's leg to prevent this danger, deadly force is forbidden.
Are you sure about that, Bartholomew?

I ask because the concept of "shooting to wound" is completely alien to both our specialist police firearms units and to any firearms training I've heard about. Here we're told, "Never point a gun at anyone, even if you know it's not loaded, unless you're prepared to kill him," and I'd be astonished if the German police are told differently.

It's also alien to English law -- if you shoot someone with a gun (indeed, deliberately wound them severely in any way) that's Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent and, if the victim dies, it's murder.

It's also a completely crazy concept since no one is so good a marksman and anatomist both that they could possibly take a shot at a suspect with any idea at all about whether they're going to hit a vital organ or not. There's a major artery in the leg, for example, and if the bullet hits that, then the suspect is likely to bleed out with a minute or two.

The only defence would be that shooting them was the reasonable course of action for the officer to take, bearing in mind his understanding (possibly mistaken) of the circumstances at the time, for self-protection or the protection of another.

So in this example, "I only intended to wound him" would be tantamount to a guilty plea, at least if the target died, and quite possibly if he didn't.

Our police are trained to fire at the centre of the target's body-mass, as the best target that's most likely to bring the suspect to the ground and, with luck, not kill him in the process. The only exception to that is when they're confronting a suspected suicide bomber, in which case the target is the head, both in order to prevent him detonating a suicide jacket and to avoid accidentally detonating it for him by shooting a bullet into it.

But they would normally be ordered to use those rules of engagement only by a very senior officer, and only then when there's good reason to believe they're dealing with a suicide bomber. No one wants a repeat of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.
 
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Are you sure about that, Bartholomew?

I ask because the concept of "shooting to wound" is completely alien to both our specialist police firearms units and to any firearms training I've heard about. Here we're told, "Never point a gun at anyone, even if you know it's not loaded, unless you're prepared to kill him," and I'd be astonished if the German police are told differently.
I am not Bartholomew, but yes, shooting to wound is indeed a thing in Germany's police laws. Lethal force, aiming at vital organs/body parts is only allowed when there is no other way to protect yourself or another person from death or severe bodily harm. It's called "final rescue-shot" (and I guess -if- it comes to this, the rules you mention apply - IF they are going to use lethal force, then they will try to make sure it's really, well, lethal). This only applies when shooting at an object, shooting at a non-vital bodypart or, preferably, using any other form of non-lethal force is not going to successfully stop the criminal. Shooting to wound is explicitely mentioned as a possible measure to stop a person from attacking or fleeing. And - in at least one federal state a police officer can not be ordered by their upper ranks to aim for a final rescue shot - it's solely their own decision if aiming to kill would be justified.
 

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I am not Bartholomew, but yes, shooting to wound is indeed a thing in Germany's police laws. Lethal force, aiming at vital organs/body parts is only allowed when there is no other way to protect yourself or another person from death or severe bodily harm. It's called "final rescue-shot" (and I guess -if- it comes to this, the rules you mention apply - IF they are going to use lethal force, then they will try to make sure it's really, well, lethal). This only applies when shooting at an object, shooting at a non-vital bodypart or, preferably, using any other form of non-lethal force is not going to successfully stop the criminal. Shooting to wound is explicitely mentioned as a possible measure to stop a person from attacking or fleeing. And - in at least one federal state a police officer can not be ordered by their upper ranks to aim for a final rescue shot - it's solely their own decision if aiming to kill would be justified.
How does that work? I mean, if it becomes an issue, how would a court determine the difference between a shot to wound that missed and hit the suspect in the chest and a shot deliberately aimed at him?

In the UK, it works very differently. Here it's unlawful to use force upon someone else except only under specific circumstances -- playing football, or getting a tattoo, for example -- without a lawful excuse. Some of the exceptions include self-defence or the defence of another, or intervening to prevent a crime, or apprehending a suspect or whatever -- in which case the general rule is that you're allowed to use only "reasonable force", with "reasonable" being the minimum amount necessary, given the all the circumstances surrounding the incident as the defendant understood them at the time.

While it's easy enough to imagine the arguments in a case about whether shooting a suspect was reasonable under the circumstances at the time, as the officer understood them to be, I'm struggling to imagine the points you'd have to prove to determine whether a particular shot was shooting to wound or to kill.
 

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While it's easy enough to imagine the arguments in a case about whether shooting a suspect was reasonable under the circumstances at the time, as the officer understood them to be, I'm struggling to imagine the points you'd have to prove to determine whether a particular shot was shooting to wound or to kill.
Here in The Netherlands shoot to wound is preferred above shoot to kill as well, but the moment one uses a loaded gun against someone, it is of course always possible that the outcome is killing the suspect, even when trying to only wound him.
The investigations afterwards are to establish whether it was justified under the circumstances at that time to use the gun, not the outcome.
 

Innula Zenovka

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Here in The Netherlands shoot to wound is preferred above shoot to kill as well, but the moment one uses a loaded gun against someone, it is of course always possible that the outcome is killing the suspect, even when trying to only wound him.
The investigations afterwards are to establish whether it was justified under the circumstances at that time to use the gun, not the outcome.
That's the bit I don't understand. Here the objective is to use the minimum amount of reasonable force necessary to subdue the suspect. Obviously when the police fire on a suspect they don't do it with the intention of killing him, unless they're dealing with a suspected suicide bomber or are in a similar situation where it's necessary to kill the suspect to prevent him killing someone else, and in the normal course of events as soon as he is disarmed and overpowered, they'll administer emergency battlefield first aid (in which they are trained) and summon an ambulance for him.

But here, before they shoot someone, they have to be prepared, if necessary, to defend the action and its consequences. If the threat doesn't justify the use of potentially deadly force, then potentially deadly force may not be used. They have batons, tasers, pepper spray and so on, and should use them instead, but first of all they're supposed to try to calm down the confrontation.

I'm sure that, in practice, the Dutch, German and British approaches to policing are all very similar and that they are in sharp contrast with the US model. But the bit that confuses me is that, while it's obvious when the officer has chosen to use his taser and when he's chosen to use his gun, it's by no means obvious when he's chosen to shoot to kill and when he's chosen to shoot to wound, but missed and killed the suspect instead.

I mean, it's obviously shooting to kill if, when the subject is on the ground wounded and disarmed, the officer finishes him off with a double shot to the head, but how does a jury distinguish between a well aimed shot that's intended to kill and a badly aimed one that's intended only to wound but ends up killing the suspect?
 
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