Policing issues remain unresolved

Cantonal police are under pressure, especially at international events Keystone

Switzerland’s police authorities say internal security should remain under the control of the country’s 26 cantons and that cooperation with the federal authorities should be limited.

This content was published on February 20, 2004 - 13:53

But they agreed to continue to work with the army and border guards because of a continuing shortage of police officers.

Officials added that the army should continue to provide troops to protect embassies, while security on planes should be shared between police, the army and border guards.

The announcements came as a working group for internal security handed in its final report at a meeting of cantonal police directors in the capital, Bern.

Jörg Schild, president of the conference of cantonal police directors, said there were still many security issues which remained to be resolved.

Schild said an increasing shortage of police officers - about 1,000 throughout Switzerland - was a major headache.

“The basic problem is still not solved,” he said.

Free movement

A number of decisions relating to Switzerland’s security were taken at the meeting, including the use of troops in cantons where there is a shortage of police officers.

It was also recommended that police officers should continue to provide security for individuals such as foreign dignitaries visiting Switzerland.

But in some situations, such as annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, army units might have to be called in as back-up.

What remains unresolved is how Switzerland will address security issues if Bern signs up to the European Union’s Schengen and Dublin agreements - which govern cross-border crime and asylum.

Switzerland’s cantonal police directors said the free movement of people would require contingency measures such as a mobile security force that would carry out random identity checks throughout the country.

In addition, the issue of policing on railways has yet to be resolved. It was suggested that private security services might be considered as an alternative in the future.

Army troops

Unlike countries such as the United States, which has the FBI, Switzerland does not have a federal police force.

As a result, Switzerland’s cantonal police have to increasingly turn to the army for reinforcements.

Army personnel, as well as security forces from neighbouring countries, helped make up for a shortage of police officers at the G-8 summit last year on Lake Geneva and at annual meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Last year troops served 365,318 days on police business - a sixfold increase since 2000.

The police working group, USIS, was set up in 1999 to improve cooperation between cantonal and federal authorities, amid a shortage of cantonal police officers.

The working group was asked to come up with solutions that would not create additional costs while respecting the sovereignty of the each canton’s police force.

The group has suggested that Switzerland establish a federal police force but the government quickly rejected the proposal.


Key facts

In 2000, cantonal police used 59, 244 army service days
This was 69, 785 in 2001 and 155, 289 in 2002.
For 2003, this figure is expected to jump to 365,318.

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