TV column “Stern TV – The Live Experiment”: Controversial survey on police violence

A police officer breaks the law to save someone’s life. That is exactly what happened two decades ago: In the case of the kidnapping of the eleven-year-old banker’s son Jakob von Metzler, police inspector Ortwin Ennigkeit severely questioned the suspect Magnus Gäfgen. On the instructions of his superior, Ennigkeit threatened torture: with pain he had never experienced in his life. Gäfgen caved in and led the police to the place where he had hidden the boy.

The police officers could not save a child’s life with this action, Gäfgen had already murdered the boy on the day of the kidnapping. The perpetrator received life imprisonment – but also compensation for pain and suffering due to the threat of state violence. The process was also made in good faith – he was sentenced to a fine for coercion in office.

The case of Jakob von Metzler: Newly adapted by Stern TV

That was 20 years ago and actually everything has been said, shown and written about this tragic case. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop Stern TV from developing a so-called “live experiment” from it, in which the audience can play the lay judge: Does the end justify the means?

Stern TV has developed a criminal case that is based on the Jakob von Metzler case: an eight-year-old girl is kidnapped, a suspect is caught and interrogated. If he doesn’t soon reveal where he hid little Antonia, she could die because the child suffers from diabetes and needs insulin. “I can make sure we’re just between ourselves,” the officer whispers to the suspect: “Just you and me.” A threat? Or just a statement?

The child is rescued, the suspect is in a coma

When the suspect doesn’t make a move, the inspector finally becomes clearer: “If you don’t talk now, I’ll hurt you a lot.” Finally he becomes violent – with two consequences: the perpetrator talks first – and then collapses unconscious. He will be in a coma for weeks, but the girl can be saved. So did the commissioner act correctly?

Watching the actors go about their investigative work is excruciating. And unfortunately not because the thriller is so nerve-wrackingly exciting, but because it is the nerve-wrackingly lame implementation of a very flat screenplay. RTL does not trust the audience to do their own intellectual work: “The investigators are running out of time,” says white on black on the screen, followed by the image of a loudly ticking clock. It’s all so badass that it almost counts as torture.

The vote of a deeply suffering father

Beyond the amateur drama, people who are either experts or are on the victim side have their say. For example, the parents of 17-year-old Anneli-Marie Rise, who was kidnapped and murdered in 2015. Father Uwe Rise becomes the defender of violence against suspects: “Everyone involved should simply do what their heart tells them to do.” Should this emotionally understandable opinion prevail, we would soon have lynchings in Germany.

The fact that law and justice are seldom congruent is nothing new. However, Stern TV does everything it can to grab the average viewer emotionally and not burden them with the very complex legal debate. Accordingly, the first voting results are out: the exertion of psychological pressure on suspects should be allowed, demand 77 percent of the “Stern TV” viewers by voting.

The audience’s verdict is unequivocal

70.85 percent of viewers deny the criminal the right to integrity, although RTL is already speaking very improperly of the perpetrator and no longer of the suspect. Towards the end, the Saxon constitutional judge Elisa Hoven, thankfully, summarizes this again: that in the constructed criminal case, pressure and violence are exerted on someone who is only under suspicion. And in extreme cases could be innocent. We should not shake the ban on torture, the lawyer emphasizes again. By allowing violence in interrogation, “we open a door that we should not open”.

So is the violent officer in the fake detective guilty? The audience vote for the new live experiment from Stern TV is clear: the police commissioner is acquitted, 87 percent of the TV audience think this is the right verdict. The show, on the other hand, should be found guilty: guilty of willful destruction of airtime, redundancy and boredom. Nevertheless, at the end of the show, Hallaschka threatens to repeat this live experiment, which fulfills the intent. Should that be supported? Next time you will vote with the remote control.

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The original of this post “Controversial poll: Do we really need more torture in the police station?” comes from Bunte.de.

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