Not only are programmers, waiters and teachers missing in many places, in some federal states the police are now also having considerable difficulties in recruiting young people. As the results of a survey by the German Press Agency show, a number of state governments have reacted to the drop in the number of suitable applicants since 2019 by intensifying their campaigns to recruit young people and giving them more leeway when it comes to the maximum age. But in some places that is not enough.
From the point of view of the police union (GdP), demographic change and the resulting shortage of staff, which other employers are also feeling, are not the only causes of the problem. "It must be made clear intensively and offensively what the police in this country stand for," says the GdP federal chairman, Jochen Kopelke. Unfortunately, people often stand by and watch as "buckets of mockery or hatred and agitation" are poured out over the police in online videos and "brazen lies" are spread about them. Other problem areas are the sluggish digitization and the differences between different police authorities in terms of salary and equipment, says Kopelke.
"The riot police responsible for training could have filled around 60 additional training positions in 2022," says the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior. However, not enough qualified applicants had registered for the second qualification level of the police service. "On the other hand, an increasing number of applicants have decided not to take the training position that was offered." Overall, however, the number of those who began their training as police officers was higher than the number of officers who retired.
Some hurdles for applicants lowered
The group of potential applicants has recently grown at individual police authorities, also due to new regulations on minimum height. The background to this is also the corresponding court rulings. In Baden-Württemberg, for example, the minimum height of 1.60 meters has been undercut since 2019. Applicants who are at least 1.50 meters tall are now also accepted for the police service in the south-west if they have "proven physical suitability". There is no minimum size for the Federal Police, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and in some countries.
In Schleswig-Holstein, the maximum age has been 42 since the 2019 selection process. Before that it was over in the north at 32 years. As a spokesman said when asked, the age limit for students of the BKA 2019 was raised to 42 years in the course of the revision of the regulation on careers in the criminal police service, and to 43 years for the shortened career training.
In some cases, other hurdles have also been lowered. In Hesse, for example, applicants with a medium-level degree and who have already successfully completed three years of vocational training with an average grade of at least 2.5 can be admitted to university.
If you want to become a detective inspector at the BKA, you must currently achieve an average of at least 2.8 on the degree certificate for the course. Almost 6,800 interested parties registered for the two recruitment dates in 2018. In the three years that followed, there were slightly fewer applicants. For the dates in 2022, the BKA counted just over 4,900 applications.
In NRW it is possible to apply without a high school diploma
The police in North Rhine-Westphalia opened the doors to applicants without a high school diploma for the first time last year. In addition to the 11,335 applicants, another 2,936 people applied for this so-called pilot school for the police technical college. However, those who are accepted first have to do a police-specific vocational qualification, after which the "real" commissioner training begins.
What led to a significant increase in the number of applicants for the Federal Police in 2019, according to the authorities, is the option to apply online that was introduced at the time. While around eight people applied for one position in 2018, between 2019 and 2022 there were between ten and twelve applicants per position. A total of 29,497 men and women showed interest in a career in the Federal Police last year.
In contrast, there has been a decline in the number of applicants in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Hamburg since 2019. However, in Hamburg the number of applications per position increased. As a spokesman announced, the requirements profile for junior police officers in Hamburg was adjusted in 2019: "The personality of the applicants, such as their reflective attitude, is given special attention in the current requirements profile."
The curve was also pointing downwards in Lower Saxony. In 2018, there were still more than 6,100 people interested in a career in the police and criminal police, but according to the Ministry of the Interior, only 4,339 applications were received in 2022. In Rhineland-Palatinate, the recent drop in the number of applicants is attributed to the pandemic.
The Berlin police have long had problems with not enough good applicants for the training of around 1,200 new police officers per year. There are enough interested people, but the majority fail the exams, especially because of unsportsmanlike behavior or poor knowledge of German. About one in six drop out during training. The GdP in Berlin announced last week that the decline in the number of qualified applicants was "dramatic" in some areas. Part of the blame for this are parts of politics, which have faced the police "with great distrust for decades".