Police database: the long road to deletion


Jonas is in his mid-thirties, father of a family, works in a major Bavarian city, and has a completely normal life. Except for this one youth sin: in his early twenties he was caught with a small amount of cannabis and received a complaint. The proceedings against him were ultimately dropped against a condition. Jonas had learned his lesson – and actually thought that was the end of the whole thing.

Far from it, because his case ended up in police databases. “Whenever we were checked at festivals or just like that in the pedestrian zone, I was always given special treatment,” Jonas remembers today. Special treatment usually meant emptying the backpack and explaining yourself exactly. At a festival he even had to explain his earplugs.

What data have the BKA and LKA saved?

The police never found illegal substances on Jonas again – despite this, every simple traffic check usually lasted three quarters of an hour, and the officers often asked Jonas to take a drug test. That went on for years, he says. Until it became too much for him: More than ten years after the fact, he made a request to the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office and the Federal Criminal Police Office, wanting a list of which data about him is stored in police files.

Anyone can make such a request, and in most cases the authorities are obliged to respond. A few months after the request, Jonas also received a letter from the BKA – with an answer. The letter shows that Jonas is stored in the police network file, even though the deadline for deletion was more than seven years ago at the time of writing.

Data will not be deleted despite the deadline deletion

The Bavarian State Criminal Police Office also still has data from Jonas over ten years later. Why? One explanation for this would be that he committed another crime. Normally, all data is then only deleted ten years after the last crime. But Jonas has never been suspected of having committed a crime since then. This is also proven by the responses from the authorities. Every contact between Jonas and the police is listed in the letters.

The deletion period can be extended for any police contact

Thomas Petri, the Bavarian data protection officer, has a possible explanation: In the past, the deletion period was sometimes extended even if the perpetrator had contact with the police again in any way – even if, like Jonas, he was a victim or a witness was on guard. That couldn’t actually be, says Petri:

“Just because I am recorded again in other contexts without having appeared criminally, it cannot be that my old crimes have to be carried around with me as a mortgage.” Thomas Petri, Bavarian data protection officer

Software now determines the deadline for deletion

The police see it that way – meanwhile. But Jonas’ act was more than ten years ago. Jonas then checked again with the Federal Criminal Police Office. And wanted to know why his data had still not been deleted around seven and a half years after the deadline. The BR also checked again. The BKA’s reply shows that software is now calculating the date. On this date, a clerk should then decide on the deletion – this is the so-called deadline deletion date.

The data record should then appear automatically for the clerk. But this procedure was not yet in operation, at least at the time of the inquiry. What exactly happened at Jonas’, whether his data set was ever presented to anyone at all, can no longer be traced, because his data has now been deleted. In the end, that’s what matters to him, says Jonas. He learned something important from the whole story:

“That you don’t have to surrender to the situation and can become active and investigate. To simply enforce your personal rights.” Jonas

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