Wolfgang Albers
Cologne ppolice chief Wolfgang Albers is to step down in the wake of the NYE attacks in Cologne Getty

Cologne's police chief is due to step down following criticism on how the force dealt with a series of sexual assaults on women on New Year's Eve. Wolfgang Albers is reported to be placed on "provisional retirement" following the alleged attacks by as many as 1,000 men described as from the "north African or Arab world" outside the city's main train station, German media reported.

Police were criticised for failing to cope with number of assaults close the famous Cologne Cathedral, with a leaked report suggesting officers at the scene were unaware of what was happening. Police have also faced accusations they attempting to cover up the extent of the attacks to avoid a backlash against migrants who have recently entered the country.

Of the 31 suspects arrested so far in the investigation, 18 of them are asylum seekers accused of crimes such as theft and assault. None of those arrest so far in connection with the alleged sex crimes committed on NYE. Of the people detained, nine were Algerian, eight Moroccan, five Iranian and four from Syria.

Albers has reportedly been told he will be given early retirement by state interior minister Ralf Jaeger, with an official announcement expected later. Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker accused police of holding information from her and that her "trust in the Cologne police leadership is significantly shaken".

Jaeger said the move was "necessary to restore public trust and the Cologne police's ability to act, with a view to upcoming major events".

State police in Cologne have so far recorded 170 complaints, including 117 of a sexual nature and two of rape. Two people, aged 16 and 23, said to be North African, have been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.

Police are also investigating whether there is a link between the attacks in Cologne and those that occurred in Hamburg and other German cities.