Archiv für Sozialgeschichte
Band XLIII/ 2003 - Summaries

Thomas Kleinknecht/Michael Sturm,

"Demonstrations are Selective Plebiscites". The Reform of the Police and the Democratisation of Society from the 1960s to the 1980s

In retrospect, the innovation-efforts of the 1970s within the police as an institution have the appearance of a change in epochs. This transformation took place against the background of the legacy of National Socialism: Many lines of personnel-continuity can be traced from the "ordinary men" (Christopher Browning) of the Ordnungspolizei to the Municipal Police Force of the Federal Republic of Germany. The anti-authoritarian demonstrations reached a climax in 1968, which was revolutionary also for the police. Extra-parliamentary protest movements had already manifested themselves in diverse ways during the youth protests of the 1950s and 1960s. The dramatic confrontations at the end of the 1960s between the police and the predominantly academic protagonists nevertheless led to a variety of new reform approaches. They provided the professional practice of the Municipal Police with a new style and brought forth forms of engagement, which were thoroughly thought through. This transition shall be illustrated by examining selected biographies of police reformers and by throwing a glance at the local case study of Munich. Traditionalist approaches to education found their way into a new police model, whose self-perception and perception of the political environment were essentially moulded by the social sciences and the work of police psychologists. The reformers significantly advanced the demilitarisation of the police and developed a - frequently criticised - liberalised understanding of the "freedom of demonstration and assembly" (Alfred Dietel/Kurt Gintzel) and of politics as a whole. In spite of developments in the opposite direction, one can observe a democratic learning process within the police force as - alongside the army - the civilian bearer of a sanctioning medium of state power. In combination with concrete governmental "pacification measures", such as the amnesty-decrees of 1970 for those, who had committed criminal offences during demonstrations, this learning process contributed to the successful integration of the previously revolutionarily-minded protagonists of the 68-movement into West German society.


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