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General Information

Admission to the OSCE: 25 June 1973

OSCE Chairmanship in 1996

Policing overview: Due to the country’s federal structure and cantonal sovereignty in police affairs, there is no sin-gle national police force in Switzerland: the federal system and division into three levels – communal, cantonal and federal – is also reflected in the structure of the Swiss police.

Federal Office of Police

1. General information
2. Functions and missions
3. Structure and organization

1. General information
The Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) works with its international and cantonal partners as a cen-tre for information, coordination/cooperation and analysis in matters concerning the internal se-curity of Switzerland.

2. Functions and missions
Fedpol’s activities include:

  • Criminal investigations on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland which are usually of great complexity and of an international and / or interdisciplinary nature (in particular cases of terrorism, money laundering, corruption and financial crimes);
  • Coordination and support to criminal investigations in cases where the cantons have prin-cipal competence but which involve more than two cantons and/or foreign countries. 
  • Security duties such as the protection of persons and sites considered to be at risk;
  • Administrative tasks such as, among others, managing the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS), the Coordination Unit against the Trafficking of Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (KSMM), the Coordination Unit for Cybercrime Control (CYCO) or the Central Office for Explosives and Pyrotechnics / Arms.

3. Structure and organization 
The four main divisions at the Federal Office of Police are the:


  • Main Division Federal Criminal Police, responsible for conducting investigations against transnational organized crime, including financial crime; terrorism and its financing; criminal activities involving explosives; illegal intelligence gathering; offences involving federal elec-tions and ballots; offences against the laws on war material, nuclear weapons, dual-use goods and specific military goods and on civil aviation; corruption; genocide; money counter-feiting; as well as the execution of rogatory letters from abroad. Finally the Federal Criminal Police coordinates the intercantonal and international investigations and ensures the exchange of police information with Interpol;
  • Main Division Services, performing a cross-sectional function and providing services to clients in Switzerland and abroad (DNA/AFIS-Services, Identity Documents, National Police Information Systems etc.);
  • Main Division Federal Security Service, responsible for the protection of federal officials and people and buildings affording protection under international law as well as in charge of the structural, technical and organisational security strategy for federal civilian buildings in Switzerland;
  • Main Division International Police Cooperation, among others in charge of the operational and strategic development of the bilateral and multilateral police cooperation, including the cooperation with the European Union and the Schengen-area in the field of law enforcement. Moreover, it functions as Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for bilateral, Interpol, Europol-, and Schengen-related correspondence and manages the Swiss police attachés abroad as well as the foreign police attachés in Switzerland.

To view an organization chart, please visit the Attachments section.


  Organization Chart [English] (38.23 Kb) Organization Chart [English] (Format: PDF) http://polis-cp.osce.org/countries/view?item_id=72&attach_id=195
Organization chart of the Federal Office of Police
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Cantonal Police Corps

1. Functions and missions
2. Structure and organization

1. Functions and missions
The responsibility for law and order basically lies with the cantons, where the police have also the function of judicial police and of coordination body in the event of major disasters. The can-tons also mainly determine the structure of their police forces.

2. Structure and organization

The Swiss federal structure is reflected in a number of cantonal police services which are organ-ised in different ways:

  • The German-speaking cantons distinguish generally between criminal, security and traffic police, the security police having the more general function of maintaining law and order and the criminal police having the more specific task of investigation of crimes;
  • The French-speaking cantons as well as the canton Ticino distinguish generally between the “gendarmerie“ and “police de sûreté“, with the latter being the equivalent to the criminal po-lice, whereas the “gendarmerie” corresponds to the security police in the German-speaking cantons but also act as traffic police;

In addition, the cantonal police corps dispose of special task units, intervention units and special institutions as the lake and airport police.

For more detailed information, please follow the link to the cantonal police desks in the Links section below.

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Communal Police Corps

Communal police corps became established in cantons that are territorially subdivided or whose communes traditionally have a high level of autonomy, such as Zurich and Lausanne among others. The competence of whether a communal police is established and what are its responsibilities lies with the canton. A detailed list of all the communal polices can be found on the following link: www.polizei.chwww.polizei.ch http://www.polizei.ch.

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Border Guards

The Corps of the Swiss Border Guards is the uniformed and armed part of the Federal Customs Administration and is therefore part of the Federal Department of Finance. It has three strategic tasks:

Customs duties
Together with the collection of value added tax and customs duties, these include the preven-tion of smuggling and trafficking in narcotics, weapons, war material, hazardous substances, protected animal species, cultural artefacts and counterfeit branded articles. The Border Guard also has other economic, trade and health policy tasks.

Police security duties
These mainly involve searching for persons, goods and vehicles, detecting document forgeries and preventing international crime.

Aliens police duties
These include the prevention of illegal entry into and departure from the country, illegal resi-dence and working, people smuggling and trafficking.

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Staff Data

The Swiss Police Forces comprise about 23,000 members. This includes federal, cantonal communal police forces as well as the Swiss Border Guards.

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The education and training of the police corps are organised at cantonal level. There are, how-ever, also training centres which are managed by several cantons together in the framework of a concordat. The following are some of the major training centres for Swiss police officers:

  • The Swiss Police Institute is a private foundation located in Neuchâtel and supported by the Swiss federation, cantons and municipalities. It offers mostly specialized and advanced training, training material and conducts research;
  • The Intercantonal Police Academy in Hitzkirch offers basic as well as advanced training and provides together with the Swiss Police Institute advice to the various Swiss police corps on further training opportunities. Its aim is the standardization of the education in po-lice matters as well as the integration of the police training in the general Swiss education system.
  • The Police- School Eastern Switzerland (Polizeischule Ostschweiz) in Amriswil offers a comprehensive basic training for future police officers of six cantons, two cities and of Liechtenstein.
  • The Police Academy Savatan offers basic training for future police officers as well as ad-vanced and specialized training for police.
  • The Association of the Swiss Police Officers in Lucerne offers the possibility to attend specific diploma courses for the higher education concerning criminology or international criminal law e.g.

With regard to advanced training, additionally to the already cited possibilities, especially with the Swiss Police Institute, there are also the international training possibilities offered through the Middle European Police Academy (MEPA) and the European Police College (CEPOL).

Concerning the Swiss Border Guards, they have their own three- year education, which com-prises a one-year basic education and two years of specialized education on several topics.

For more detailed information, please follow the link to the official websites of these training cen-tres in the Links section below.

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Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation  Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation http://www.admin.ch/
Official website of the Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation, available in German, French, Italian, Romansh and English

Federal Office of Police - Switzerland  Federal Office of Police - Switzerland http://www.fedpol.admin.ch/fedpol/en/home.html
Official website of the Swiss Federal Office of Police, available in German, French, Italian and English

National Police Desks - Switzerland  National Police Desks - Switzerland http://www.fedpol.admin.ch/fedpol/en/tools/links/Nationale_Polizeistellen.html
List of links to the official websites of the various cantonal and communal police services

Police - Switzerland  Police - Switzerland http://polizei.ch/en
Official website of the Swiss Police, available in German, French, Italian and English

Swiss Police Institute  Swiss Police Institute http://www.institut-police.ch/
Official website of the Swiss Police Institute, available in French and German

Cantonal and Communal Police services  Cantonal and Communal Police services http://www.polizei.ch/
Links to official sites of the cantonal and communal police services

Police Academy Savatan  Police Academy Savatan http://www.academie-de-police.ch/de/uber-die-academy/
Official website of the Swiss Police Academy Savatan, available in French and German

Police Academy Hitzkirch  Police Academy Hitzkirch http://www.iph-hitzkirch.ch
The Intercantonal Police Academy in Hitzkirch offers basic as well as advanced training and provides together with the Swiss Police Institute advice to the various Swiss police corps on further training opportunities.

Police School Eastern Switzerland (Amriswil)  Police School Eastern Switzerland (Amriswil) http://www.polizeischule-ostschweiz.ch
Website of the Police School of Eastern Switzerland, available only in German

Association of Swiss Police Officers  Association of Swiss Police Officers http://www.vspb.org
The website is available in German, French and Italian

Swiss Federal Border Guards  Swiss Federal Border Guards http://www.ezv.admin.ch/org/04135/04138/index.html?lang=en
The website of the Swiss Federal Border Guards, available in English, French, German and Italian.

OSCE/ ODIHR Legislationline - Switzerland  OSCE/ ODIHR Legislationline - Switzerland http://www.legislationline.org/countries/country/48
Legislationline is a gratis internet-based legislative database published and maintained by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Last Updated: 31 January 2011

Also see: Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein