01/03/2017 08:11 EST

Cologne Police Defend Racial Profiling On New Year's Eve

The police chief said he felt it was necessary.

German police are defending their decision to racially profile hundreds of North African men on New Year's Eve.

Last year, police in the city of Cologne were overwhelmed by hundreds of sexual assaults. The city's police chief was dismissed amid criticism of the force's handling of the incidents.

This year, police tweeted that hundreds of "Nafris" — an abbreviation for North Africans — had been detained.

Police Chief Juergen Matthies said he regretted using the word "Nafris," adding it was an internal term that wasn't meant for public use.

However, he did say he felt profiling was necessary.

“We had a clear idea of who we should be checking. It wasn’t gray-haired old men or blond young women," he told broadcaster WDR.

"We had a clear idea of who we should be checking. "

“A question of proportionality and legitimacy arises when almost 1,000 people are being checked and some detained based on how they look like,” Green Party leader Simone Peter told the Rheinische Post, as translated by Reuters.

Some felt that police were not only racially profiling citizens, but using racial slurs.

Comedian Jan Böhmermann tweeted: “What’s the difference between Nafri and n****r?" according to The Telegraph.

There's no law that explicitly bans racial profiling in Germany.

With files from The Associated Press

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