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Is there evidence or indication that the police force engages in ethnic profiling?

Key Area:
Policing - Law Enforcement - Justice
Racism, Discrimination
23/01/2013 - 17:28
Short Answer


Qualitative Info

According to German law, the federal police can ask a person to identify him- or herself solely on the basis that he/she is found at a place where the police assumes that persons meet to prepare criminal offences, or that criminals are hiding there (§ 23 II Nr. 1 BPolG). On the basis of this law, the police has repeatedly checked the identity of persons only due to their “foreign appearance”, and cases of police violence have taken place in this context as well [4]. While there is no evidence that the police proceed systematically in this way, there is evidence that persons coming from former Yugoslavia or from Turkey specifically are, by comparison, checked by the police more often [4; 2, p. 34f.; 6]. In addition, there have been reports of ethnic profiling of Sinti and Roma, Muslims and members of ’recognisable’ (notably black) minority groups [1, p. 16f; 3]
Furthermore, Data mining (Rasterfahndung) has led to unintentional ethnic profiling (e.g. concerning Muslims). Data mining is a legal practice of the German police to narrow the potential group of suspects in a specific case. By going through various data bases, the police employs a filter for those that show certain characteristics, which again form the profile of the wanted person(s). In general, due to its potentially discriminating effects, Data mining is considered controversial.

On 28 February 2012, the Administrative Court Koblenz decided that the German Federal Police is allowed to conduct personal identity checks without a concrete suspicion. On grounds of efficiency and capacity, the police controls are limited to random checks. Therefore, the police are authorized to select persons for identity check on grounds of appearance. Thus, identity check due to skin colour is permitted according to the court decision as it is seen as minor intervention (document number (Aktenzeichen): 5 K 1026/11.KO).
Yet, the claimant appealed against the decision before the higher administrative court Rheinland-Palatinate (Oberverwaltungsgericht Rheinland-Pfalz, OVG). On 29 October 2012, the court ruled against police checks based on skin colour and thus overturns the previous ruling in the case by the administrative court of Coblenz. According to the jurisdiction, identification checks based on skin colour constitutes a violation of Germany’s anti-discrimination law laid out in Art. 3 (3) of the federal constitution/Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG) [7].

According to many NGOs ethnic profiling by the police is a widespread phenomenon. Thus, the initiative ‘Black people in Germany’ (Initiative Schwarze Menschen Deutschland, ISD) and other NGOs initiated an online petition against personal identity verification checks being applied without concrete reasons for suspicion as well as racial profiling in general [9].


  1. Duvall, Misti (2005): “Ethnic Profiling by Police in Europe”, in: Open Society Institute (2005): Justice Initiatives: Ethnic Profiling by Police in Europe, pp. 14-25,, Accessed on 22.02.2012.
  2. European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights FRA (2010): Für eine effektivere Polizeiarbeit. Diskriminierendes ‘Ethnic Profiling’ erkennen und vermeiden: ein Handbuch,, Accessed on 22.02.2012.
  3. Hieronymus, Andreas (2011): ENAR Shadow Report 2009/2010 – Supplemental Report : Ethnic profiling in Germany,, Accessed on 27.02.2012.
  4. KOP, Kampagne für Opfer rassistischer Polizeigewalt (2010): “The colour of guilt and innocence” – Racial Profiling im Rahmen polizeilicher Personenkontrollen,, Accessed on 22.02.2012.
  5. Rassistische Diskriminierung in Deutschland unterbinden. Parallelbericht an den UN-Antirassismusausschuss zum 16.–18. Bericht der Bundesrepublik Deutschland nach Artikel 9 des Internationalen Übereinkommens zur Beseitigung jeder Form von rassistischer Diskriminierung. Forum Menschenrechte,, Accessed on 15.2.2012.
  6. UN-Gesandter gegen Rassismus zog Bilanz für Deutschland: Mehr gegen Diskriminierung tun (2009),, Accessed on 22.02.2012.
  7. Higher administrative court Rheinland-Palatinate (Oberverwaltungsgericht Rheinland-Pfalz, OVG), resolution 7 A 10532/12.OVG, Press release, 29 October 2012, available at:, Accessed on 13.01.2013.
  8. German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte, DIMR) (2012) ‘“Hautfarbe“ ist kein zulässiges Auswahlkriterium für Polizeikontrollen‘, Amicus curiae – Stellungnahme des Deutschen Instituts für Menschenrechte im Verfahren 7 A 10532/12.OVG vor dem Oberverwaltungsgericht Rheinland-Pfalz, October 2012, available at:, Accessed on 13.01.2013.
  9. Stop racial profiling,, Accessed on 13.01.2013.

Groups affected/interested
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Key socio-economic / Institutional Areas Policing - law enforcement
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