Sunday, December 27, 2020

German Police Training and Neo-Nazism

The German government is publicly obsessed with Nazism: how it happened, how to keep it from happening again. Germany is regularly held up as an example of how a nation should deal with crimes in its past; I have seen half a dozen times this year the argument that the US should take the approach Germany takes to the Holocaust in dealing with our legacy of race slavery. The German police in particular all receive special training in their history; “cadets across the country are now taught in unsparing detail about the shameful legacy of policing under the Nazis.” They visit concentration camps, meet Holocaust survivors, are taught about how it feels to be persecuted.

And the result is, well:

Germany has been besieged by revelations of police officers in different corners of the country forming groups based on a shared far-right ideology.

“I always hoped that it was individual cases, but there are too many of them now,” said Herbert Reul, the interior minister of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, where 203 police officers are under investigation in connection with reported far-right incidents.

For Mr. Reul, the alarm sounded in September, when 31 officers in his state were found to have shared violent neo-Nazi propaganda. “It was almost an entire unit of officers — and we found out by chance,” Mr. Reul said this past week in an interview. “That floored me. This is not trivial.”

That's from an article in The Times titled, 

She Called Police Over a Neo-Nazi Threat. But the Neo-Nazis Were Inside the Police

Now I am not saying that there is nothing we can do about Neo-Nazis, or about racism. But if you think, as many Americans seem to think, that acquainting people with the facts about past crimes is somehow going to reform them, you are just plain wrong. The German police get more anti-racist training than the general population, and have ended up more racist.

The great preponderance of the evidence shows that anti-bias training has no effect, and many studies find that it has an effect opposite to what was intended. In fact I have never seen a major study not funded by anti-bias training companies that finds a positive effect.

If you think you can train people out of racism, sexism, or any other sort of bias, you should consider the German police. Because the anti-bias training they receive goes far beyond what any American company or university has ever offered, and it is not working.


G. Verloren said...

"The German police get more anti-racist training than the general population, and have ended up more racist."

"Because the anti-bias training they receive goes far beyond what any American company or university has ever offered, and it is not working."

There's a possible fallacy here.

When modern armies in Europe introduced steel helmets, the numbers immediately and very clearly showed a massive spike in head wounds. People concluded there must be something wrong with these helmets - there must be some counterintuitive aspect of their design that actually made it more dangerous to wear a helmet than not. Clearly they were fragmenting on impact, or making soldiers more visible, or... something!

...except that what was actually happening is that a portion of the people who had previously been being outright KILLED by bullets and shell shrapnel and listed as fatalities, were now being listed as wounded. The numbers of head wounds went up, because fatalities went down.

Similarly, there may be some degree of reporting bias going on here. The German numbers might seem high, but that might simply be because they have more accurate reporting than we do, precisely because of their obsession with fighting Nazism. Their training could actually be having a massive effect, we're just not recognizing that fact because the final number of "reported" Neo-Nazis is higher than elsewhere, even while the actual ratio might be lower.

Wikipedia informs me that in 2019, Germany had 322,400 police officers.
If they've only found 203 Neo-Nazis total among their numbers, that works out to a mere 0.06% of all officers in their force being Neo-Nazis.

Meanwhile, the United States in 2018 had 686,665 police officers. Do you honestly think only 0.06% of them (a mere 412 officers) were secretly Fascists? Because my intuition is that the percentage would actually be MUCH higher - by at least an order of magnitude. (Even a number like 4,120 such officers seems low!)

I think the odds are overwhelmingly good that we have a much bigger problem with Neo-Nazis in the ranks of our police force, we just have far worse reporting and aren't aware of how bad the situation actually is. And I think the same "obsession" with combating Neo-Nazis that led the Germans to introduce their training also leads them to be far better at uncovering and removing those Neo-Nazis than we are. Their numbers may only seem "high" because they're actually bothering to look.

David said...

In line with my comment on Jim Jordan and thought-terminating cliches, it does occur to me that programs to denazify the German police might be more effective if they included thought-terminating cliches such as, "if we catch you saying these things, you'll be fired with no appeal." But, of course, liberals want not only to create a society where there's less racism, but one where there's lots of sincere, authentic, deeply-held anti-racism and also less reliance on coercion and punishment, especially arbitrary, no-appeal punishment. This is the sort of contradiction that's pretty much inherent in liberalism, and means liberalism always looks a little awkward, defensive, and on the back foot. I say all this is a liberal--it just goes with the job.

That said, since I'm sure John is already aware of these sorts of issues, I'm wondering what are his suggestions as to what we should do about racism etc. Your post seems to suggest you have some in mind. I'm quite open to any idea that isn't "let's ignore them and they'll wither with time"--which is too much of a gamble on at best even odds, and certainly didn't work on creationism (although, as you pointed out a while back, doing nothing about creationism also didn't make it worse).