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Goodies and Baddies: The presentation of German Police and Criminals in East and West Television Drama

By Regina Rauxloh
Read the Full Contribution as a PDF

Suggested Citation: Regina Rauxloh, Goodies and Baddies: The presentation of German Police and Criminals in East and West Television Drama, 6 German Law Journal 981-1000 (2005), available at

A. Introduction

Criminal Justice is never only about identifying and sentencing unwanted and thus, outlawed behaviour. As one of the closest contacts between state and citizens, Criminal Justice implies also a system of values and more or less subtle messages which the state wants to transmit to the people. In all modern legal systems, Criminal Law is about society as a whole being deterred from crime, educated and moreover ensured of the state’s power, its efficiency and above all its benevolence. In other words, Criminal Justice does not only deal with offenders and victims but additionally with its own presentation in public and the citizens’ perception of it.

In the 20th century, the mass media developed its full capacity for influencing the public, and is today one of the main means to inform as well as to manipulate people. Thus, in order to obtain a picture of a Criminal Justice system and its public image, state produced media can offer an important insight. In this paper I would like to present the East German police programme ‘Polizeiruf 110’ that has been broadcast from 1971 until now, showing how the state used the entertainment media to promote particular perspectives about crime, police, society and the state.

For this work, I analysed 20 out of the 153 episodes that were broadcast in the former GDR, i.e. 25 hours and 49 minutes. These episodes were chosen randomly, as I had no free access to the archives. There are also some analyses of this TV drama in academic literature, particularly the valuable work of the Institut für Medien- und Kommunikationswissenschaften in Halle.

B. The Notion of Crime in the Former GDR

In the first years after the founding of the German Democratic Republic in 1949 it was believed according to Socialist ideology that crime was bound to die out in the GDR, since the new social order would delete any need for or inducement to crime. With...