An March 18, seven years ago, Gerhard Bereswill comes home late and he will hardly get any sleep that night. Messages are still coming in on his phone every minute. Injured officials, arrests, but above all knowledge that the violence could start again at night. It’s been about twenty hours since Frankfurt experienced the most serious clashes in many decades. Blockupy 2015. The opening of the ECB. The mob set off early in the morning. The image that many remembered was that of a burning city.
When Gerhard Bereswill now, at the end of his term as Frankfurt police chief, talks about his toughest operations, Blockupy is one of them. Not only because the protest by left-wing autonomous groups revealed a level of violence that the security authorities had not expected. On the other hand, because he had to witness that the police had become the target of serious attacks. Several police cars were set on fire. One of the incendiary devices was thrown into a vehicle in which an officer was still present. Days later, when Bereswill speaks in front of the Frankfurt city council, you can still see that he was upset about everything.
He speaks softly, even softer than usual, choosing his words carefully as he recaps the hours the mob roamed the city. 10,000 police officers would have faced 4,000 violent criminals. But the extent of the violence surprised him and everyone. And he finally says what it was about: an attack on the state. During the eight years of his tenure, Bereswill repeatedly had to deal with attacks on the community, in a wide variety of forms: Islamist terrorism, international drug-related crime, violence by left-wing autonomous groups, organized crime, anti-Semitism, right-wing extremism and repeated violence against the police.
A chief of police must above all be a diplomat
If Bereswill, who celebrated his 65th birthday on Friday and will be retiring on Tuesday, is asked which of these issues challenged him the most, he will say: all the same. Because Bereswill is not someone who weighs against each other. He’s a pragmatist. Someone who never looked for the stage, but walked on it fearlessly when he had to, because Frankfurt is Frankfurt after all. A city where crime is sometimes more pronounced than anywhere else. With its international importance as a banking city, as a transport hub, as a drug hub with a train station district that makes the city run down, so that in the end it is always the police who have to solve the problems there. Citizens, he says, must feel safe in the city. And the guarantor for that is the police.
The fact that Bereswill, who was Vice President of the Police in Frankfurt for four years before taking over the helm, has gained such great recognition is not only due to the fact that crime, at least statistically speaking, has declined in recent years. Born in the Palatinate, who began his career in 1974 with what was then the Federal Border Police, today’s Federal Police, but four years later switched to the state police in Hesse, recognized that a police chief must above all be a diplomat. He spent many evenings at receptions in consulates general.