HUFFINGTON POST

Cologne's Police Chief Ousted As Stories Of New Year's Eve Chaos Emerge

“Women alone or with others were literally running the gauntlet through crowds of heavily drunk men, in a way that defies description.”
Police officers patrol in front of the main station of Cologne, Germany, on Jan. 6, 2016, following a wave of allegations tha
Police officers patrol in front of the main station of Cologne, Germany, on Jan. 6, 2016, following a wave of allegations that women were sexually assaulted and robbed during the city's New Year’s celebrations.

They lost control.

Newly released police reports paint a picture of utter chaos amid the New Year's Eve attacks in Cologne, Germany -- as well as authorities' failed response to the violence and sexual assaults that have led to the city police chief's removal.

The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia announced on Friday that it was sending Wolfgang Albers, 60, into provisional retirement.

The state's interior minister, Ralf Jaeger, said the move was "necessary to restore public trust and the Cologne police's ability to act, with a view to upcoming major events." The city's annual Carnival is next month.

Albers faced mounting criticism for his handling of the attacks on women by small groups of men allegedly of "Arab or North African origin."

An internal federal police report obtained by The Wall Street Journal gave a grim glimpse into the disorder that night: Women fled the crowds in tears as passersby stopped to guard them from being raped and “groups of men with migration background” threw fireworks and molested them.

“Women alone or with others were literally running the gauntlet through crowds of heavily drunk men, in a way that defies description,” a police official wrote in the report, according to the Journal.

Police were criticized not only for how they responded, but for how they reported the crimes in the aftermath. They initially failed to mention the attacks around Cologne's main train station in their report the following morning, describing the New Year's festivities as "largely peaceful."

As police officials deal with the fallout, they've also apprehended 31 people suspected of being connected to the robberies and assaults, though none of them appear to have been involved in physical assaults of a sexual nature. Earlier Friday, Germany's Interior Ministry said 18 people seeking asylum were among the suspects. 

The individuals were detained by federal police on suspicion of committing crimes ranging from theft and bodily injury, and in one case, verbal abuse of a sexual nature, Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate told reporters in Berlin. They were believed to be among the group of up to 1,000 people in front of the railway station on Thursday evening.

Plate said the suspects consisted of nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, five Iranians, four Syrians, two Germans and one person each from Iraq, Serbia and the United States, according to The New York Times.

None of the 31 individuals is currently suspected of committing sexual assaults -- the aspect of the New Year's chaos that has prompted the most outrage in Germany over the past week. Police have not yet identified suspects for the sexual assaults.

Cologne police said Friday they have received a total of 170 criminal complaints related to New Year, including 120 of a sexual nature. In addition to the 31 suspects detained by federal officers, city police arrested two men from North Africa, ages 16 and 23, early Friday. Prosecutors said later Friday that those two were released, citing a lack of evidence against them.

The incidents have triggered calls for tighter immigration laws, particularly from politicians opposed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy that allowed nearly 1.1 million refugees to enter the country last year.

Government spokesman Georg Streiter said Merkel wants "the whole truth" about the events in Cologne and that "nothing should be held back and nothing should be glossed over."

"It doesn't just harm our rule of law but also the great majority of completely innocent refugees who have sought protection" in Germany, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read More:

CONVERSATIONS