German water cannons: High pressure against disobedience

The German police forces have received new water cannons since 2010. The allocation of the vehicles is known, but suddenly the Federal Ministry of the Interior makes a mystery of it.

The German Ministry of the Interior has financed new water cannons for the state police forces, and the Federal Police also received 15 vehicles. The Ministry does not want to reveal the distribution of these „Water Cannons 10000“ („WaWe10“) to the individual federal states and treats the answer to a parliamentary inquiry as classified.

The reason given is that the announcement of the locations is suitable for „enabling conclusions to be drawn about the tactical potential of the riot police“. This would enable unspecified persons to „direct disturbances against public safety and order towards them“.

3,300 litres per minute from three pipes

The „WaWe10“ seen at a presentation at Berlin police.

Following an invitation to tender in 2008, the Austrian company Rosenbauer was awarded the contract to replace the old „Water cannon 9000“ with the new model. The „WaWe10“ units have a tank volume of 10,000 litres instead of the previous 9,000 and weigh 31 tonnes. Whereas two pipes used to be flooded, two „operators“ can now shoot a total of up to 3,300 litres per minute from three pipes. The features also include „water domes“ and „water walls“ behind which police officers can approach unnoticed.

The five crew members, however, are very comfortable behind almost indestructible polycarbonate glass panes with independent heating, air conditioning and cooling compartment. Protected from its own coercive measures by an outside air filter system, both CN and CS tear gas can be added to the spray. For this purpose, a total of six gas containers of 20 litres each are stocked.

Minimum quantity: one relay with two water cannons

Two „Sonderwagen 4“ are part of a water cannon squad.

The procurement of the „WaWe10“ goes back to a decision of the Conference of the State Interior Ministers in 2005. The beneficiary federal states will receive at least two vehicles, which together with two so-called „Sonderwagen 4“ („Special Wagon 4“) and a command vehicle will form a water cannon squadron. Ten officers are required to operate all the vehicles. The total costs of such a unit are estimated by the Brandenburg Ministry of the Interior at around 80,000 euros per year.

The first delivery of a total of 61 „WaWe10“ for the federal and state governments took place in 2010, each unit costs around 1 million Euro.

The same ministry that now wants to keep the locations of the riot police sealed off disclosed them in 2014 following a request under the Freedom of Information Act. According to this, all federal states except Saarland, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg should be equipped. As the largest federal state, North Rhine-Westphalia received six „WaWe10“, the same number of items were therefore delivered to Hamburg.

A total of 65 vehicles, only Saarland waived

The total stock of „WaWe10“ at German police forces as of 2014. At that time, the value for Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt was still given as zero.

The states of Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg had abandoned their water cannon squadrons in 2002 and 2012. The maintenance of the vehicles was too expensive and they were hardly used. According to the state government, there was a need for „Störerabwehr“ (defence against disturbers) with the strengthening of right-wing movements on the road, for example the „Pogida“ demonstrations in Potsdam were initially accompanied water cannons borrowed by other federal states.

In the meantime, both Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg have revised their resolutions and built up new water cannon squadrons, which, however, until the complete modernisation, each contain an old „WaWe9“ in addition to a new „WaWe10“. This means that the total stock stated five years ago will increase from 61 to 65 after delivery of all vehicles. Only the Saarland continues to do without the long-range weapon.

Image: The old „WaWe9“ and its replacement „WaWe10“.

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.