Police tasks at federal level
Security duties: The Confederation is responsible for the following police tasks:
- Security of federal officials and buildings, and people and buildings afforded protection under international law (unwritten constitutional responsibility);
- Police powers relating to customs duties (Art. 133 Federal Constitution);
- Safeguarding public transport and civil aviation (Art. 87 Federal Constitution);
- Police powers within the armed forces (Art. 58 et seq. Federal Constitution).
Criminal investigations: The federal authorities have limited tasks in certain fields of criminal investigations. Under Article 23 and 24 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland and the Federal Criminal Police are responsible for prosecuting a conclusive list of criminal offences. These include offences related to organised crime, terrorist financing and complex cases involving economic crime, whereby the Federal Criminal Police acts under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Office.
The Federal Office of Police (fedpol) is Switzerland’s federal police agency and sole contact for national and international partners. Its tasks comprise criminal investigations, security duties, administrative duties, and support and co-ordination tasks. Criminal investigations are conducted by fedpol’s Federal Criminal Police division, whereas security duties (protection of people and buildings) are performed by the Federal Security Service division. Administrative tasks relating to explosives and pyrotechnics, arms, foreign nationals, violent propaganda and violence at sporting events are undertaken by the individual sections responsible for these areas. To assist them in their work, federal and cantonal law enforcement agencies have access to various fedpol-operated police databases. Furthermore, fedpol is the national information, co-ordination and analysis centre for its cantonal and international partners.
The armed forces also perform certain federal security duties (protection of people and military facilities) and conduct criminal investigations (military justice authority). These tasks are carried out independently of fedpol and are based on military law. The army also assists the civilian authorities in averting serious threats to Switzerland’s domestic security and in coping with extraordinary situations or events such as the G8 summit in Evian or the World Economic Forum in Davos.
It is important to distinguish between the core areas of police work (law enforcement and averting danger) and other police tasks such as intelligence gathering. The latter involves the early identification of potential threats to the state such as those posed by terrorism, espionage or violent extremism, and is carried out by the Federal Intelligence Service (SIS) which is part of the Federal Department for Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDCPS).
The Border Guard Corps (BGC) is the uniformed and armed section of the Federal Customs Administration (FCA), which belongs to the Federal Department of Finance (FDF). The Border Guard Corps is responsible for the security of Switzerland’s border areas, and its tasks cover aspects of customs, police and migration work. As the largest civil security agency in Switzerland, the BGC acts as the country’s outer security barrier and is thus instrumental in safeguarding domestic security.
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