German Police Chief Removed From Post After Mass Sexual Assaults in Cologne

Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers is being put into early retirement following criticism of how his force handled a wave of sexual assaults and robberies on New Year's Eve.
January 8, 2016, 6:54pm
Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/EPA

The police chief in the German city of Cologne has been removed from his post following criticism of his handling of mass sexual assaults and violent clashes on New Year's Eve, a state government source has said.

The police chief Wolfgang Albers, 60, was informed by the state interior minister Ralf Jaeger that he would be relieved of his duties and given early retirement, the source told Reuters.

Jaeger said the decision to remove Albers from his post was taken in order "to restore public trust in the police," reported the BBC.

Cologne's police department has come under criticism following a wave of sexual assaults and robberies by men from a group numbering around 1,000 people who were mostly of foreign descent. They have been accused of not dealing quickly enough with the amount of drunk and aggressive people gathered in the square outside Cologne's central train station, where the assaults took place, and failing to respond when the attacks started happening.

Albers responded to the criticism by arguing what took place was "a completely new dimension of crime," while a police union representative blamed a lack of adequate resources.

Related: German Police Identify Suspects After Mass Sexual Assault on New Year's Eve

Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate told a news conference on Friday that federal police had identified 31 people by name who played a role in the violence, 18 of whom were in the process of seeking asylum in Germany.

Plate said the vast majority of the 32 criminal acts documented by federal police on the night were tied to theft and bodily injury. Three were related to sexual assaults, although police had no names tied to these acts.

He said of the 31 people questioned, nine had been Algerian, eight Moroccan, five Iranian, and four Syrian. Two German citizens, an Iraqi, a Serb, and a US citizen were also among those seen to have committed crimes during the night.

On Friday, Swiss artist Milo Moire protested naked outside the cathedral, while holding a sign that read: "Respect us! We are not fair game even when naked."

She also criticized comments from the city's mayor Henriette Reker, who said on Wednesday German women should follow a code of conduct to protect themselves. "It is a matter of course we have worked for in the past 50 years, that I can live as a woman the way I want to, in freedom," said Moire.

Related: Germany Is Turning Away Syrian Refugees Once Again

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