Law enforcement in Germany


Law enforcement in Germany

Law enforcement in Germany is divided between the different levels of federalism: the federal level ("Bund"), the state level ("Länder") and the local level ("Kommunen").

Federal agencies

There are two federal police agencies in Germany: The Federal Investigation Bureau and the Federal Police that both fall under the Federal Ministry of the Interior. [Interpol entry http://www.interpol.int/Public/Region/Europe/pjsystems/Germany.asp] The German Federal Coast Guard, known as the "Küstenwache", is both a civilian service and a law enforcement organisation, staffed with both police officers and civilians from the various German federal agencies associated with maritime administration.

Federal Criminal Police Office

The Federal Criminal Police Office/Federal Investigation Bureau ("Bundeskriminalamt", BKA) is Germany's national investigative agency, and coordinates law enforcement in cooperation with criminal investigation bureaux of the individual states of Germany (these state investigation bureaux are known as "Landeskriminalamt") and to conduct investigations in serious crimes, especially when other countries are involved [OSCE entry on BKA http://polis.osce.org/countries/details.php?item_id=17#Country_Profile_Section_213] .

Federal Police

In May 2005, the "Bundesgrenzschutz" (German Federal Border Guard) was renamed "Bundespolizei" (Federal Police) to reflect new responsibilities for domestic security that combine law enforcement and intelligence. The organization not only is responsible for protecting the country's rail system, airports and the borders but also participates in United Nations peacekeeping missions and supports intelligence-gathering activities [OSCE Entry on BPOL http://polis.osce.org/countries/details.php?item_id=17#Country_Profile_Section_211] .

GSG 9 is a special federal police unit that was created to combat hostages incidents, assassinations and organized crime. Former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher established the unit after the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

tate agencies

The German states are responsible for managing the bulk of Germany's police forces [OSCE entry http://polis.osce.org/countries/details.php?item_id=17#Country_Profile_Section_212] . Each state has its own police force known as the "Landespolizei" (State Police). Each state has a code which lays down the organisation and duties of its police ("Landespolizeigesetz" or "Sicherheits- und Ordnungsgesetz"). The idea of creating one single police code for the whole of Germany ("allgemeines Polizeigesetz") came up in the 1960s but was never passed.

Although uniforms and vehicle colour schemes are similar all over Germany, the police forces are structured slightly differently in each state. For example, the "Kriminalpolizei" (detective branch, often shortened to "Kripo") are part of the ordinary police force in some states and separate organizations in others.

The idea of using the same colour for police uniforms and vehicles throughout the European Union has resulted in German police forces slowly changing vehicle liveries from white/green to silver/blue. The uniforms have also changed in some states from the green/beige version introduced in 1979 to blue. Hamburg was the first state to make the transition. In most states, newly acquired vehicles and helicopters get the new colour scheme.

Local agencies

After 1945, there were many local and city police forces, such as the Munich Police Force, throughout Germany. Small towns and rural areas that could not or did not want to afford their own police force were covered by the "Landpolizei" which was a mobile gendarmerie-type force organised by the state government. This decentralised system, however, was not effective in fighting the rise of organised crime and terrorism (Baader-Meinhof/RAF). So the local and city police forces were merged with the "Landpolizei" to form the "Landespolizei" during the major reorganisation of the German police in the mid-seventies.

Currently, many cities in Germany also have a local public order force. Depending on each state's laws, the name of the force that performs these limited police-type functions could be:
*"Ordnungsamt"
*"Kommunaler Ordnungsdienst"
*"Städtischer Ordnungsdienst"
*"Stadtpolizei", which means "City Police", in some cities in the State of Hesse.

These city employees mainly wear uniform but some could be in plain clothes and are the municipal administration's eyes and ears on the street. Depending on each state's laws, these local employees could be armed or unarmed. Mostly they are charged with monitoring municipal by-laws and laws that fall under the responsipility of municipalities, which include monitoring the conduct of shop owners, sanitation inspections, veterinary inspections and minor infractions and misdemeanors such as illegal parking, littering, state and local dog regulations etc.. They usually only hand out warnings and fines and can only perform a citizen's arrest as any other citizen can. If they see any major crimes they are required to call the regular police ("Landespolizei").

Neighborhood watch

Many German states have neighborhood watch programmes.

Bavaria has instituted a system of citizen patrols ("Sicherheitswacht") where unarmed teams of two volunteers patrol assigned areas to improve subjective security. These teams carry a radio to call for help if necessary and a white armband with black letters identifing them as a neighborhood watch patrol.

Citizens in Baden-Württemberg can participate in the Volunteer Police programme, where approx. 1,200 citizens voluntarily assist their local police in 20 towns. These volunteers are specially trained, wear uniforms and are armed. Their main duty is crime prevention: conducting walking patrols to deter street crime, patrolling near schools and kindergartens and maintaining contact with potential victims of crime and juvenile delinquents.

Citizens in Hesse also participate in a Volunteer Police program, where some citizens voluntarily assist their local police. The volunteers are trained for 50 hours, receive a blue uniform, pepper spray and a mobile phone. Their main duty is crime prevention: conducting walking patrols to deter street crime, patrolling near schools and kindergartens and maintaining contact with potential victims of crime and juvenile delinquents. People can also join the "Wachpolizei" which has less competencies (and less pay) than regular police to perform basic police tasks such as traffic or guard duties, releasing regular officers for patrol work.

Equipment

Transportation

German police typically use cars from German manufacturers. Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Audi, Opel and BMW are commonly used as patrol cars ("Streifenwagen"). States used to prefer vehicles built in or close to the respective state. However, with most states now leasing instead of buying their vehicles and in light of European Union rules on contract bidding, states have less latitude in choosing which manufacturer will provide their patrol cars than they did.

In the Saarland which is adjacent to and historically closely tied to France, vehicles from French companies as well as European Ford are used as police cars. The Bavarian State Police uses mainly BMW and Audi vehicles, as both companies are based in Bavaria (BMW in Munich and Audi in Ingolstadt). In the eastern states of Germany, mostly Volkswagens are in use (Volkswagen is based in Wolfsburg, close to the eastern states). The Hessian police prefer Opel cars (General Motors-brand Opel is based in Rüsselsheim near Frankfurt am Main in Hesse). With Daimler based in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg mostly uses Mercedes brand cars for their police force.

Before the police reform in the mid-1970s, Germany had many city police forces and each had its own police car livery. Dark blue, dark green and white were popular colours. However, the dark colours were perceived as a disadvantage as many accidents occurred at night during high speed chases. Therefore the conference of interior ministers decided on standardising police car liveries so that the cars appeared non-threatening and could be easily visible at night. And so bright green has been the colour associated with the police in Germany since the 1970s. Vehicles were generally painted white with bright green stripes. More recently, livery has been changed to silver (instead of white) with either light blue or light green (depending on state) stripes with reflecting strips as borders, but cars painted in the old livery can still be seen (as of April 2008).

In the last 5 to 10 years, German police forces have marked their patrol cars using plastic foils instead of painting them. The foils can be removed when the cars are sold as standard silver used cars to the public before their market value drops too low. However, patrol cars are now usually leased from a manufacturer for a period of about three years.

Uniforms

Some German police forces are implementing a uniform change from the old green and khaki version designed by Heinz Oestergaard in 1976 to more modern blue designs. Most countries' police uniforms are black or blue and many German politicians do not see why Germany should be different. At present (June 2008) only Bavaria, Berlin and the Saarland are not intending to convert. States such as Bremen, Hesse, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein have already made the change. [Article Warum treibt es die Polizei so bunt? ADAC Motorwelt, June 2008, ISSN 0007-2842] The other states are in various stages of testing or introducing new uniform designs.

ee also

* "Zollkriminalamt" (German Customs Investigation Bureau)
* Prisons in Germany
* "Staatsanwaltschaft" (public prosecutor’s office)

References

*


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