Structure of Switzerland’s Police Forces

The primary aim of the Swiss police is to ensure public safety and order through law enforcement. Switzerland’s police service is categorized into 3 main levels, namely; federal level, cantonal police and communal police, and the level of policing required will depend on the type, and scale of crime committed. For example, issues of traffic safety within a Commune will be dealt with by the relevant communal police force, while concerns regarding national security will be handled at federal level.

Federal Level

The federal office of police (FEDPOL) is typically concerned with internal security. FEDPOL conducts investigations on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General for matters relating to terrorism, organized crimes, and corruption. Essentially the federal office of police acts as a central unit for coordination and analysis for international and cantonal policing partners.

Cantonal Level

There are 26 cantonal police agencies in Switzerland. Cantonal police are responsible for enforcing law and order within their respective canton area. The scope of cantonal police is wide and covers all matters relating to public safety, traffic control, missing persons, assisting the public in emergencies, and investigating damage or loss of property. Cantonal police agencies operate in line with cantonal law.

Communal Level

Communal police officers in Switzerland are tasked with enforcing communal level regulations, public safety, law and order and other matters related to communal policing within the commune’s territory. Like cantonal police agencies, the responsibilities of communal police are broad. Essentially, communal officers ensure traffic control within the boundaries of their commune; they also assist in keeping the peace and facilitating solutions to disturbances or excessive noise. Not all communes in Switzerland have their own dedicated communal police force however. In situations where a commune does not have its own police force, then cantonal level policing will apply.

Border Police in Switzerland

All matters relating to border control in Switzerland are handled by the border police force. Typical duties of border police includes checking people crossing the border i.e. ensuring their documentation is valid, and overall, ensuring security is maintained.