The Federal Office of Police fedpol – a short portrait
The Federal Office of Police (fedpol) is responsible for all police tasks under federal jurisdiction. The relatively new office was established in 2000 and has its headquarters in Bern. Fedpol currently employs over 870 staff.
The new Federal Office of Police (fedpol) was established in 2000 under the reorganisation project known as “Strupol” whose objective was to merge all federal police tasks into one agency. On 1 January 2002 the so-called Efficiency Bill (comprising measures to improve efficiency and the rule of law in law enforcement) came into force, thus conferring on the federal police and prosecution authorities greater procedural responsibilities for fighting transnational organised crime, money laundering, corruption and economic crime.
The last reorganisation took place with effect from 1 January 2009 as a result of the Federal Council’s decision of 21 May 2008 to transfer the National Intelligence Centre and those units of the Service for Analysis and Prevention (SAP) responsible for intelligence tasks from the Federal Department of Justice and Police to the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. The remaining SAP units were subsequently integrated into other fedpol divisions. Fedpol also took this opportunity to improve management procedures and optimise synergy and internal structures.
Today, fedpol’s tasks include criminal investigations, security duties and administrative tasks. It also provides support to its federal and cantonal partners, and co-ordinates certain police tasks.
Criminal investigations are conducted by the Federal Criminal Police (FCP) on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG). The investigations are usually of great complexity and of an international and/or interdisciplinary nature. The number of cases involving terrorism, terrorist financing, economic crime, organised crime, national security and mutual assistance are increasing all the time. Likewise on the increase is technological development, criminals’ know-how and co-operation between individual criminal groups.
Fedpol’s security duties are carried out by the Federal Security Service (FSS). The Service is responsible for ensuring the security of federal officials (members of government, members of parliament, civil servants) and of people and buildings afforded protection under international law. The FSS is also responsible for the recruitment, training and deployment of air and ground marshals on board Swiss aircraft and at certain sensitive destinations abroad. The Special Task Force for Hostage-taking and Blackmail, which is activated in the event that federal authorities or foreign authorites become subject to blackmail, has also been integrated into the FSS since 1 January 2009. The FSS is also charged with defining the structural, technical and organisational security concept for federal buildings in Switzerland (including the private residence of federal councillors and the property of officials deemed to be at risk) and the security of Swiss embassies and consulates abroad. The Service has its own security personnel, which it deploys in the parliamentary buildings and other federal buildings. In addition, it operates the Federal Alert Centre, which takes emergency calls relating to attacks, burglaries and fires as well as other alert systems.
Another of fedpol’s mandates includes administrative and co-ordination tasks such as; issuing orders with regard to the import of arms and explosives; issuing entry bans; fighting violence at sporting events; combating violent propaganda; and federal tasks in connection with issuing identity documents. In the field of Internet crime, the Cybercrime Coordination Unit Switzerland (CYCO) – which is jointly financed by the federal and cantonal authorities – is responsible for searching the Internet and identifying suspect subject matter (e.g. child pornography, sexual acts with children), which it then forwards to the competent cantonal law enforcement agency.
The Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) is another fedpol office with administrative duties. MROS receives suspicious activity reports from financial intermediaries on activities that may constitute money laundering or terrorist financing, or that may involve illegal money or criminal organisations. It gathers and analyses the data and forwards the information to the appropriate federal or cantonal prosecution authority if there is reasonable suspicion that offence has been committed.
Support and co-ordination
Fedpol’s support and co-ordination tasks are carried out by various sections within the Federal Criminal Police (FCP), the International Police Co-operation Division (IPC), the Services Division and the Directorate Staff office. The incidents in summer 2009 involving a Swiss pharmaceutical company are an example of fedpol’s co-ordination role: following several attacks on high-ranking members of a well-known pharmaceutical company probably by militant animal rights activists, the FCP co-ordinated the investigations in Switzerland and abroad and the exchange of information between the partner agencies involved. The cantons, however, remain responsible for carrying out the criminal investigations.
The International Police Co-operation Division (IPC) is responsible for all fedpol’s international activities. Its tasks include the strategic and operational aspects relating to co-operation with Europol, INTERPOL and Schengen, as well as bilateral and multilateral police co-operation. Switzerland’s national SIRENE office (SIRENE = Supplementary Information Request at the National Entry), which is the contact point for all police alerts in the Schengen Information System, is also incorporated into the IPC. The division is also in charge of deploying Swiss police officers abroad in connection with international police operations (e.g. UNO missions), and it manages the police and customs co-operation centres (PCCCs) in Geneva and Chiasso, which facilitate co-operation in these two areas with the French and Italian authorities. Last but not least, the IPC is responsible for the ongoing deployment of Swiss police attachés abroad (established in 1995) who assist the Swiss police and prosecution authorities in fighting cross-border crime.
Another of fedpol’s mandatory tasks is to provide its national and international partners (i.e. foreign and cantonal police corps, border guards corps, migration authorities, INTERPOL, etc.) with access to central police information systems such as the RIPOL database (national search database) or the AFIS database (automated fingerprint identification system). Other supportive tasks are carried out by the Swiss Coordination Unit Against the Trafficking of Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (KSMM), which, together with numerous federal and cantonal agencies as well as non-governmental and international organisations, develops strategies and tools with regard to the prevention and prosecution of human trafficking and smuggling and in the field of victim protection.