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Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay
Wolfgang Albers exits stage left.
TAKING FLAK

Cologne’s police chief is sacked over the response to mass sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve

Fallout continues after Germany’s discovery of a mass assault on women during New Year’s celebrations in Cologne. Wolfgang Albers, Cologne’s chief of police, was ousted today after allegations that his force was not adequately prepared for the attack and sought to downplay and cover up details about it in the immediate aftermath.

Cologne’s police were accused of trying to hide the ethnic origins of the few suspects they’d identified in connection with the attacks, which were perpetrated by more than 500 men. Witnesses had described the assailants as drunk, aggressive, and seemingly Arab or North African in appearance. Today, Germany’s interior ministry announced that of the 31 individuals identified as suspects so far, 18 were asylum-seekers from Iran, Syria, Algeria, and Morocco.

Albers, whose departure has been billed as a “temporary retirement,” said, ”[A]ccusing me of covering-up the ethnic origins of the suspects is totally absurd.” He also said, however, according to The Local, that he understood why the police department needed him to step aside for now.

The incident has been an embarrassment for not only the city’s police force but its mayor, Henriette Reker, who said she was “seriously shaken“ by the way she found out about the attacks: ”I can’t accept that I, as mayor of this city, first got this information from today’s media, especially about the origins of the people involved who are under investigation.”

The “origins of the people involved” have intensified debate over Germany’s influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East. Chancellor Angela Merkel has maintained that she will not set a cap on how many asylum-seekers the country will accept, but now debate is shifting to whether migrants found guilty of crimes in Germany should be deported.

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