Inquiring into Diversity: The Case of Berlin Police Inspector Bobkowski
Theriault, Barbara, German Politics and Society
How does one deal with diversity in an organization known to be hostile to it? Drawing on a Weberian perspective I present in this article one case occurring in actual historical practice: that of Inspector Bobkowski, a teacher, chief of the political education unit at the Berlin police academy and training center, and a hobby historian. With an eye to the case at hand as well as other efforts to deal with difference under the Weimar Republic encountered during my fieldwork, I attempt to uncover the motives underlying the action of officers who contributed to the promotion of diversity within the police force in Germany. Inquiring into their motives enables me to construct an ideal type of a "carrier of diversity," which, I argue, shares affinities with a liberal agenda of civic equality.
diversity; police; Berlin; political education; Max Weber
The aim of the project underlying this article was primarily a pragmatic one: I wanted to infiltrate the police and investigate the ways diversity is dealt with in the civil service in contemporary Germany, a country often described as hostile to difference. (2) Though it is not the case that diversity is not discussed within the police, I was, upon posing such questions, inevitably directed towards management. In its current usage in the police in Germany, diversity is an imported concept used, incidentally, in English or in new German as Diversitat, but not in its literal translation as Vielfalt, and generally associated with efforts on the management level to make greater use of personal competences. Being a sociologist, I wished to transcend the management-inflected meaning of diversity--qua efficiency or, alternatively, the accommodation of religious and cultural practices in public services and the fight against discrimination--and use the concept in what I consider a more sociologically grounded or Weberian sense.
Weberian sociology stresses first and foremost motivational understanding. Not unlike a police investigation, the sociologist's work lies in discovering and reconstructing the motives of action (Motivzusammenhang). (3) I started by investigating the motives of those who might contribute through their work to bringing about change within the police forces. This first led me to those in charge of initiatives to recruit and deal with police officers from post-migration backgrounds, (4) an area which has attracted scholarly attention. (5) I then explored other areas where the problem of diversity was being addressed: seminars for police officials, trade union initiatives, and the police chaplaincy. I found that although these initiatives sometimes explicitly referred to "diversity," they have as yet failed to reach their stated goal. Because it promised to be an important channel, I turned next to political education (politische Bildung) and its teachers. The subject is a unique form of "non partisan propaganda," (6) the intellectual groundwork of which was laid in Germany in the context of the discussion on the role of intellectuals in the interwar period. This political science was institutionalized after the Nazi era, and in the shadow of the Holocaust, as a means to inculcate in the broad population the embrace of democracy and to promote liberal attitudes (demokratische Gesinnung) and institutions in the newly founded Federal Republic. (7)
However central to this project the study of motives and their origins may be, they should not lead us to ignore a second aspect Max Weber draws our attention to, the consequences of action. In fact, diversity will be here understood as the consequence of the actions of police officers, that is, the pragmatic recognition of difference within the police organization--regardless of their motives and intentions. Overlapping at times with management efforts, this recognition necessarily takes many forms and meanings over time and in individual cases, now favoring more difference, now more assimilation. Next to motives and consequences of action, I wanted also to touch upon a third and related aspect of Weberian sociology: the dilemmas that might result in actual practice from the clash between the individuals' intentions and the consequences, anticipated or not, of their action--what Weber refers to as destiny. This relationship between intentions and their consequences always takes us back to the existential or individual dimension of typological sociology.
In this article, I present the case of Inspector Klaus Bobkowski, a teacher, chief of the political education unit at the Berlin police academy and training center, and a hobby historian. After describing in the first section the inspector and his work in the field of political education, I then examine attempts by the inspector and his colleagues aimed at commemorating Bernhard Weiss, an observant Jew who became deputy president of the Berlin police force in the 1920s. Contrasting in a second section the officers' motives--as well as the measures they have taken and the dilemmas pertaining to them--with that of Weiss's supporters, helps to understand how the inspectors who were confronted with a great deal of resistance have contributed, sometimes against their original intentions, to greater diversity within the police force. Juxtaposing the two cases enables the development in the third and last section of a particular type of "carrier of diversity" that can be contrasted to other possible ways of talking about, and contributing to, diversity.
Between 2006 and 2008, I investigated political education staff while accompanying them in their daily work. These are their stories. (8)
Inspector Bobkowski: The Political Education Teacher
I met Bobkowski, Director of the Political Education Department at the Berlin Police Academy and Training Center, for the first time in 2006. We got together several times over the course of the following two years either in his office, filled with files of newspaper clippings and books on police and German history, or at the Berlin police museum, an institution that he played a key role in creating.
Like most of the teaching staff at the police academy, Bobkowski is a police officer. (9) As it turned out, he is also a keen hobby historian: "Well, during the evening, the weekend, others ... while others watch soap operas or pick their nose, I usually read some books [laugh]." (10) Upon finishing high school, he joined the Berlin police force in 1968, the year of the massive student demonstrations. In a tongue-in-cheek manner, he refers to himself as "an old 68er" and a full-fledged police officer. (11) When we met for the first time in 2006, Bobkowski had been teaching political education to police trainees and officers for thirty-two years.
Political education takes a lot of time in German police academies and particularly in the capital. This used to be a very sensitive subject in the geographical and ideological enclave that was West Berlin in the Cold War era, a city often described as an "island in the red sea." Even now, during the police officers' two-and-a-half years of training, four hours per week are dedicated to political education, a considerable number equivalent to the time allocated to what is considered the core of police teaching: intervention law (Eingriffsrecht). Trainees are taught the mechanisms of the German parliamentary system as well as state and constitutional law, with a particular emphasis on basic rights. At the Berlin academy, the subject can be described as a combination of political science and history. Next to the history of the Third Reich, Bobkowski particularly stresses in his teaching the history of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) and the extremist threats it faced from the Right and the Left of the political spectrum, which embodies, he says, "all the good and the bad" in German history.
After an incident involving the harassment of a recruit of Jewish descent at the beginning of the 1980s, political education was thoroughly reformed. What was a theoretical course on state and constitutional law became geared more towards practice and current events. Bobkowski explains that "fieldwork" was added to the theoretical part of the teaching so that trainees would gain concrete experience of what political education was about:
I mean, with the Basic Rights and the rule of law it is always so, you can't say: "I've done it and now we've got it for good," or something like that. Or: "We are a democracy and we'll always stay one." This is like in a marriage, well, love will not always stay, one has to do something for it. It is the just same thing with some topics in the police. They can't say, because they had during their training Basic Rights, the rule of law, racism, …
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Publication information: Article title: Inquiring into Diversity: The Case of Berlin Police Inspector Bobkowski. Contributors: Theriault, Barbara - Author. Journal title: German Politics and Society. Volume: 27. Issue: 4 Publication date: Winter 2009. Page number: 72+. © 2001 Berghahn Books, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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