It all began with the allegation of sexual harassment – against the highest police officer in Baden-Württemberg, police inspector Andreas R. A young chief inspector had put it on record in Stuttgart in November 2021: The senior supervisor made sexual advances to her during a video call made and in return waved with career advancement.
The 48-year-old R. – at that time only a year in the top job and there of all things responsible for a police image campaign against discrimination and sexual harassment – was immediately suspended. State police chief Stefanie Hinz also did not want to rule out that R. had already behaved inappropriately towards other women. The public prosecutor’s office began investigations, the Baden-Württemberg police had their MeToo scandal. It has not yet been decided whether charges will be brought against the suspended top official.
But in the meantime, the affair has drawn much wider circles. So much so that the green-black state government was caught and could ultimately break up, or at least be destabilized.
Because Baden-Württemberg’s Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister Thomas Strobl (CDU) is now also the focus of the public prosecutor’s office. Official investigations are now underway against him and a journalist to whom Strobl had forwarded a letter from a lawyer from Andreas R. The suspicion: forbidden disclosure of court hearings (against the reporter) and incitement to do so – against Strobl.
Now the Minister of the Interior, who sponsored the suspended inspector and promoted him to his top position in a hurry, is seen as a key anchor of stability on the part of the CDU in the eyes of Green Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann. Kretschmann and the 62-year-old from Heilbronn have been sitting side by side on the government bench for six years. A resignation including a replacement, which would also affect the post of deputy head of government, would seriously damage the relationship of trust at the head of government.
“I wouldn’t have done it again without you,” Kretschmann said to and about Strobl when he pushed through a new edition of green and black after the 2021 state election. A traffic light would also have been mathematically possible, but Kretschmann decided to continue the alliance with which he had governed since 2016. In doing so, he saved CDU state leader Strobl, who himself had missed out on entering the state parliament, from political collapse: Strobl remained Minister of the Interior and Kretschmann’s deputy.
Now not only the public prosecutor’s office has turned the spotlight on Strobl, a parliamentary investigative committee has also started work to investigate possible mistakes made by the interior minister in the Andreas R. cause. Nobody knows what other unpleasant things will come to light. Because it will not only be about the question of whether Strobl actually passed on an official document illegally, as the state data protection officer, among others, accuses him of.
The committee also examines the practice of promotion itself in the Baden-Württemberg police force. The Greens and CDU were just able to prevent the originally planned title “Abuse of Power”, but not the investigations, for which all parties finally gave the green light. And so it is now being examined whether R.’s turbo career was legitimate at all.
The 48-year-old had risen further after just 13 months as Vice President of the State Criminal Police Office; according to “Stuttgarter Nachrichten” without a job advertisement and at the instigation of CDU MP Siegfried Lorek, a close confidant of Strobl. Lorek, now State Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, is said to have boasted that he had also brought police chief Hinz into office alongside R.
If the high posts were actually awarded according to party proximity instead of the best selection, it would actually be tight for Strobl. The opposition is already calling for the resignation because of the transfer of the lawyer’s letter. Strobl insists that he has done nothing wrong.
In fact, various legal opinions and assessments come to contrary conclusions. What is clear, however, is that Strobl behaved awkwardly after he received an offer to talk “outside the legal process” from R.’s lawyer. “Such deals cannot be made with me,” Strobl later said at a press conference – but why he didn’t simply reject the request instead of sticking it to the press is still not clear to this day.
According to Strobl, he was concerned with “maximum clarification” and “maximum transparency”. So why not an open press conference, but secretly forwarding information to a single journalist? It was only months later that Strobl admitted that he himself had been the informant.
All of this weighs heavily on Prime Minister Kretschmann, who has so far supported his interior minister and has otherwise kept silent. When asked about the opinion of the data protection officer, Kretschmann actually announced 24 times at a press conference in response to pressing questions, with only slight modifications, that he was not saying anything because he was not familiar with the letter.
At least some reporters took it with humor: a journalist from Deutschlandfunk edited the speech snippets together, and an SWR colleague quickly added music to everything. And the Kretschmann rap was done in Ibiza chill-out style: “I don’t have the letter before me.” However, it wasn’t exactly a prime example of “maximum transparency”.
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