Many police officers in Switzerland are unhappy with their working conditions, complaining of massive overtime, staff shortages and poor wages.This content was published on October 29, 2003 - 08:42
Earlier this month, police officers in Geneva took their case to the streets to voice dissatisfaction with the cantonal government.
The problems in canton Geneva are symptomatic of a general malaise affecting police forces throughout Switzerland, according to some observers.
“The crisis in Geneva is just the tip of the iceberg,” Jean-Pierre Monti, head of the Union of Swiss Police Officers, told swissinfo.
Monti puts part of the problem down to a shortage in Switzerland of about 1,500 to 1,600 police officers – with about ten per cent of positions unfilled nationwide.
In cantons with chronic personnel shortages, police officers are forced to work overtime, one of the main sources of discontent.
“Throughout Switzerland, police officers are putting in a total of close to one million hours of overtime,” Monti said.
Since the G-8 summit – which took place on the shores of Lake Geneva in June – the 757 employees of Geneva police force have racked up some 370,000 hours of overtime.
Police officers in Basel City are also hard at work - they’ve clocked up about 200,000 hours of overtime.
“Because of special events and conferences, police in Switzerland’s bigger cities are forced to work longer hours,” Monti said.
The chronic overtime in larger cities is affecting the health and motivation of police officers, he said.
Money is another problem affecting motivation in some cantons. “Salaries have been frozen in most cantons for quite some time,” Monti said.
A police officer working in Geneva earns SFr63,375 ($47,880) in salary and benefits per year, after taxes and other reductions.
But wages, as well as responsibilities and competencies, vary among Switzerland’s 26 cantons.
The Federal Police Office appears to be taking steps to deal with the disparity among the cantons.
In April, it set up a pilot programme to train and educate Swiss police officers under one unified system.
The goal of the initiative is to improve the coordination of activities between the federal government and the cantonal police.
The first group of officers – who are due to complete the programme by the end of this year – will be given a nationally-recognised police diploma.
Monti believes a federal training system could lead to national salary negotiations – making the profession more attractive to potential recruits.
Each Swiss canton has its own police force and system of pay.
There is a shortage of about 1,500 to 1,600 police officers in Switzerland.
Swiss police put in a total of about one million hours of overtime.
In Geneva, a police officer earns a gross salary of SFr84,010.
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