Leonhard Höfner always knew which path he wanted to take professionally: The Garching native wanted to go to the police. In 1999, at the age of 17 at the time, he began his training and has been working in the Oberschleissheim police station since 2004. Höfner worked there as a youth officer for twelve years. Now the 39-year-old police chief has taken on a new post. As a contact officer, he will in future be an approachable point of contact for all Garchingers and thus help to give the police a friendly face.
SZ: Mr. Höfner, in July you replaced your colleague Volker Kratschmann and have been a contact officer for Garching at the Oberschleissheim police station ever since. Was the job attractive to you?
Leonhard Höfner: I went to the police to be a friend and helper. Unfortunately, that’s my impression, police officers are often seen differently – namely, above all, from those who punish them. Positive contact with police officers is rare. As a contact officer, you have the opportunity to talk to people without the background of an assignment and you can perhaps also explain why we sometimes act the way we do. My goal is to bring people closer to the fact that the police make a valuable contribution to society.
What are your main tasks as a contact officer?
As the name suggests, I want to establish contact. If there are minor problems you may not choose the 110 right away, whether it’s a neighborhood fight or a problem on the way to school
As a police officer, how do you manage to convey this closeness?
I walk a lot and in uniform in Garching. The contact officers used to be called strollers because they were also walkers. When the police are just the anonymous behind the uniform, it is rather difficult for people to bring up perhaps personal issues as well. As a native of Garching, I have the advantage that a lot of people know me here, also from clubs or privately, and accordingly also dare to speak to me. I hope that, with my 22 years of experience in the police force, I will be able to help or find the right contact person – for example, with questions about how to protect your house from burglars, how to behave properly if you are a victim of a crime or what to be done when attempting fraud on the phone.
How do you experience the image of the police among the population at the moment? Has the corona pandemic, in which the police often had to enforce the regulations of the Infection Protection Act, damaged the image of the police?
That is an extremely difficult point. There were also very different opinions on the part of politics on the corona measures. The difficult thing for us police officers is basically: You have your own opinion, but you have to stick to the rules and enforce them. I hope that every police officer here also shows a good instinct and assesses whether a punishment IS proportionate in a certain case or whether there is actually no danger here.
How do you behave yourself in this complicated situation?
I try to do a lot of advice instead of issuing penalties. In my experience, speaking to you often helps more and more effectively than a fine, for example in traffic. I believe it is important to have and gain the understanding of the population, especially for such serious measures as dying during the corona pandemic. Overall, I hope that the police image will not suffer from the Corona period, but that we will get out of this pandemic rather well.
Young people in particular have suffered greatly from the Corona measures, primarily due to the contact restrictions. Have you had more problems recently?
Overall, the young people I had dealt with showed an understanding of the protective measures, but of course they also had a great urge to meet. In my experience, young people need a clear line; if this is blurred, boundaries are quickly crossed once. The corona requirements have changed frequently, that was difficult. I have had good experiences with direct speeches, there were the young people who were mostly understanding and went home. But of course this is easier with smaller groups than with such large groups as, for example, in Munich in the English Garden.
Leonhard Höfner is the contact officer at the Oberschleissheim police station for Garching. The police chief can be reached personally in Garching for questions or by telephone on 089/31 56 41 32.