SEK members at the shooting range in Lorch, Hesse: Within the police force, they enjoy the reputation of an elite troop
Photo: imago images / Michael Schick
The picture of the deceased colleague was "larger than life," according to eyewitnesses.
An official of the Frankfurt SEK, code name »Junior«, who died in action in 2019, was apparently to be honored posthumously with the portrait in the emergency rooms.
The photo of the deceased was placed so prominently at the end of a corridor that it caught the eye of everyone who entered the specially secured SEK rooms in the police headquarters in Frankfurt am Main.
And what's more: the SEK people would have attached a bar for pull-ups in front of it.
Anyone passing there should do exercises in honor of the dead comrade.
It was said to have been a kind of ritual.
Insecurity and alienation
Such stories from the inner workings of the special task force in Frankfurt am Main have also caused uncertainty and alienation in management circles of the Hessian police.
State Interior Minister Peter Beuth (CDU) formally dissolved the special force last week.
It had previously become known that the public prosecutor's office is investigating 18 active and two former SEK officials who are said to have belonged to chat groups in which right-wing extremist content was also shared.
Three of the accused are superiors who, although they were not actively involved, knew about it and are said to have done nothing about it.
Interior Minister Beuth: "Obvious brutalization in parts of the SEK"
Photo: Arne Dedert / DPA
The investigation goes back to a 38-year-old SEK official who is accused of possessing and distributing child pornographic material. During the search, the public prosecutor and the Hessian State Criminal Police Office came across seven chat groups with partially illegal content, in which a total of 49 Hessian police officers and 7 other participants were registered. With 24 chat participants, there have so far been "no allegations", according to Beuth.
In the meantime, all SEK officials have been withdrawn from Frankfurt am Main and transferred to accommodation for the Hessian riot police in Wiesbaden.
The trigger for this was a tour of the offices in the Frankfurt police headquarters.
What he saw there not only testifies to a strange culture of mourning, says Wiesbaden police chief Stefan Müller, who is now supposed to see to a "restructuring" of the unit.
Isolated and not accessible to everyone
In the service rooms there are said to have been a vast number of »memorabilia« and glorifying photos of the work of the SEK: officials posing in full gear in front of the Frankfurt skyline, visual and textual presentations of strength and power.
Müller criticizes an "exaggerated awareness of the elite" and a "flaunted corps spirit" of the Frankfurt troops.
Müller also became skeptical about numerous devotional objects from the film "300" that he had seen in the SEK rooms.
The US comic film adaptation from 2006 is about a fictional story of heroic Spartans who have to defend their western homeland against a superior force from Persia.
According to management circles of the Hessian police, symbols from the film are also used in right-wing extremist circles.
The Frankfurt police chief Gerhard Bereswill, in whose area of responsibility the SEK worked until a few days ago, speaks of a "glorification and self-adulation" of the troops, which he regards as inappropriate.
The offices of the SEK were sealed off within the police headquarters and were not accessible to everyone.
The SEK men had stored weapons and equipment there, but had also "dried laundry" or "left shoes to steam out" after missions.
When he inspected the rooms last weekend, however, he did not notice anything that would explicitly indicate xenophobia or right-wing extremism, said Bereswill.
The selection process is considered demanding
SEK members are prepared for complicated operations against terrorists and felons as well as for hostage liberation in a training that usually lasts many years. The requirements are high and the selection process is extremely demanding. Within the police force, the special forces enjoy the reputation of an elite force. Hesse's Interior Minister Beuth criticizes an "obvious brutalization in parts of the SEK". He announced that he would reshape the unit with a “new management philosophy” so that it would meet “the highest professional and ethical standards”.
However, Beuth's intervention was not always well received by the police. "The number of criminal and disciplinary proceedings and the fact that the group of people involved in the chat groups is spread over several police stations is of course worrying," said Dirk Peglow from the Bund Deutscher Kriminalbeamter. "We should still wait for the further investigations and only then judge whether the networks are right-wing or not." He warned against shaving all officials about a "Nazi comb" immediately.
The regional association of the German Police Union (DPolG) warned that the officials concerned must be presumed innocent as long as they are not convicted. In addition, the entire SEK should not be held liable for misconduct by individuals, said the Hessian DPolG chairman Engelbert Mesarec. He stated "with horror", according to Mesarec, that Beuth had placed himself at the head of those who "attack the police with torches and pitchforks" through the dissolution of the SEK.