In the quest for public security, communication is the most important operational resource used by police. When German police act in a preventive capacity, officers generally speak German while performing their duties. To overcome language barriers, the police may deviate from German, but there is no clear obligation to communicate in other languages. Contrary to this monolingualism, a duty to provide information multilingually applies to criminal prosecutions. Interestingly, the intensity of interventions in the case of taking a person into custody, is quite comparable to the intensity of interventions for criminal prosecution. The border between public security and law enforcement is often blurry in practice and difficult to define legally, contributing to the disparity of communication obligations regarding police action.
This doctoral project examines police obligations regarding the use of foreign languages in a pluralized and increasingly multilingual society. Based on the above considerations, this dissertation examines the distribution of ‘language risk’ in preventive police action and its effects on fundamental rights. The potential of recent technological developments and the actual practices of the police in dealing with non-German speakers are considered. Forming part of a broader interdisciplinary research project ‘ZuRecht – Die Polizei in der offenen Gesellschaft’, this project relies principally on doctrinal analysis and statutory interpretation, as well as empirical methods for dealing with linguistic differences.
Research outcome: doctoral dissertation at the University of Freiburg (2019–2022).