The Stream

What will a new police law mean for people living in Bavaria?

Conservative-sponsored Police Task Act will grant officers sweeping new powers to act against suspects but critics warn measures are illiberal.

A contentious bill aimed at broadening police powers in the German state of Bavaria has been fiercely criticised by legal experts, civil rights advocates and even soccer fan groups who say the measures will put people at risk of police action on flimsy pretexts.

Rules within the draft Police Task Act would allow Bavarian state to police surveil the homes, email and phone calls of suspects they deem to present an ‘imminent danger’ – a far more ambiguous threshold than the ‘concrete danger’ that needs to be present for police to act under the current law. The bill was put forward by the Christian Social Union (CSU), which holds a majority in Bavaria’s legislature, and passage into law in a session scheduled for May 15 looks like a formality.

Among other changes, the bill also allows police to hold suspects under renewable periods of ‘preventive detention’ for up to 90 days a time, without being brought in front of a court.

While members of the CSU say the reforms are needed to guarantee public safety, critics say the bill is a regressive ploy to win back votes from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in state elections in October, after the AfD drew votes away from the CSU in last September’s general election. The opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party say the measures grant undue power to police while limiting the powers of courts, while civil rights groups say the bill presents the biggest extension of police powers since 1945, when the Gestapo was dissolved. The Bavarian draft law follows the passage of similar laws in the conservative states of Baden-Wurttemberg, while Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia are considering tough new legislation in parliament.

Opponents of the Bavarian bill are now organising protests under the hashtag #NoPAG, with soccer fan associations, student activists and privacy advocates among those taking part. Law students in three German universities have already formulated a Popularklage (‘popular suit’) to directly challenge the law in its current form, which they contend is unconstitutional. The students say that refugees and asylum seekers will be disproportionately targeted under the new rules, given that the police will be able to decide independently what constitutes a danger.

We’ll look at support and opposition of the bill, who stands to be affected by a change in the law, and the efforts to block it.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Stephan Dünnwald
Bavarian Refugee Council  

Jochen Kaufmann
Head of Fanprojekt München

Sven Hüber       
Deputy Chairman, GdP – Trade Union of German Federal Police

Christopher Ohnesorge @chririx
Law Student, Friedrich-Alexander University              

Read more:

German states give police more surveillance powers – Handelsblatt Global
From summer in Bavaria: the toughest police law since 1945 – Netzpolitik (via Google Translate)

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.