“One can say that racism is almost like a taboo term here”: Thomas Model is the senior police director – and believes that the executive is still not working through enough of its own prejudices. “According to the motto: We have nothing to do with it, we don’t want to deal with it. I think that’s a big mistake that the police often make.”

Model, as he reported in the documentary “37° – Bunte Polizei”, which was broadcast on ZDF on Tuesday evening, therefore co-founded the “Institute for Transcultural Competence” (ITK) at the Hamburg police. This deals, among other things, with racism in its own ranks. Policewoman Derya Yildirim also works there.

20 years ago, the daughter of Kurdish-Alevi guest workers was one of the first female police officers with Turkish roots in Hamburg. Today, as the single mother of two children explained in the film, there are many more people with a migration background working in the police force. But: “Cultural diversity must be reflected much more in the police force.”

In 2020, a good one in four people living in Germany had a history of immigration. In the police force, too, the number of employees whose families immigrated to Germany tripled between 2009 and 2021. Nevertheless, police officers with a migration background are still confronted with special challenges today. Filmmaker Güner Yasemin Balci knows stories like the ones she told in her 30-minute report: Her parents also came to Germany from Turkey as guest workers.

For “37°” Balci met people like Magdeburg police officer Kevin Shaikh. His Pakistani-Polish roots often help him mediate in intercultural conflicts – for example when he can speak Polish to a suspect. Nevertheless, he also knew of bullying and hostilities to report.

“Even when I was in elementary school, there were groups in which I wasn’t allowed to play because I looked different,” he recalled. “That was very close to my heart as a child.” or even spit on, Shaikh said in Balci’s film: “You have to tell these people: I was born in Germany, I work here, I’m a police officer. What do you want from me?”

The third protagonist of the documentary, Dina Brewer, also reported that she was used to racist insults. Nevertheless, the native Egyptian sees her origins as an advantage. “People with a different culture or background are always a great asset,” the police officer noted. It is also useful to be able to speak Arabic in professional life: “It is typical for Berlin that people prefer to talk to colleagues who also speak their language.” Often it is a question of “instinct”, stressed Brewer.

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They all – Brewer, Shaikh, Yildirim – spoke with great pride of their work in the police force. “I love my job so much. With everything that goes with it,” said Yildirim, for example. And this despite the fact that the Hamburg native has already been confronted with prejudices in the infirmary itself: “Of course I’ve already had conversations and discussions there, where I know that if I didn’t have a Turkish migration background, I wouldn’t have been asked, or I would have not reacted.”

For Yildirim, however, such experiences are just another reason to do educational work – and to recruit more people for the service who do not fit the mold of white, German-born and often male police officers. Her superior Thomas Model shared this view and found clear words: “If we are not diverse, we will no longer be successful.”

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The original of this post “”I’m German and a police officer. What do you want from me?” Asks Thomas in the ZDF documentary” comes from Teleschau.