Hesse’s prosecutor on Wednesday said the office was investigating 20 officers from the force, with the majority suspected of sending messages in far-right chat groups, including Nazi symbols and “inciting content.” Three supervising officers were accused of failing to stop or report the exchanges. All but one of the 20 officers was on active duty.
The chat groups were uncovered after examining the phone of an officer suspected of possessing and distributing child pornography.
One officer has been officially suspended, and the others have been “banned from conducting official business,” the public prosecutor said.
The move comes in the wake of revelations of far-right links that have embroiled Germany’s security forces, from other far-right chat groups sharing neo-Nazi content to a group of extremist doomsday preppers who hoarded ammunition ahead of “Day X.”
A court in Hesse is trying Franco Albrecht, a former soldier accused of posing as a Syrian refugee in an attempt to carry out a “false flag” attack. Hesse’s police chief was forced to resign last year after police computers were used to search for personal details about prominent figures before they were sent threatening letters and emails.
A year ago, Germany also partially disbanded its military’s elite commando force because of the extremist links of its officers.
Germany’s Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has pushed back against assertions of structural racism or far-right sympathies in the country’s police forces. But he agreed to commission a study into the issue last year as pressure grew amid a slew of such cases.
A similar study by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said there were 370 suspected cases of right-wing extremism in the country’s police and security forces.