An overview

The Federal Office of Police (fedpol) is responsible for all police tasks under federal jurisdiction. The office was established in 2000 and has its headquarters in Bern. It currently employs over 870 staff. 

Fedpol was established in 2000 under a reorganisation known as “Strupol” whose objective was to concentrate all federal police tasks in one office. On 1 January 2002, the so-called Efficiency Bill came into force. Its aim was to improve efficiency and the rule of law in law enforcement by conferring on the federal police and prosecution authorities greater procedural responsibilities for fighting transnational organised crime, money laundering, corruption and economic crime.

A further reorganisation took effect from 1 January 2009 following 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 from the Federal Department of Justice and Police to the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Fedpol took this opportunity to improve management procedures and optimise synergy and internal structures, while integrating remaining SAP units into other fedpol divisions.

Today, fedpol’s tasks include criminal investigations, security duties and administrative tasks. It also co-ordinates certain police tasks and provides support to its federal and cantonal partners.

Criminal investigations

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 are technological development, criminals’ know-how and co-operation between individual criminal groups. 

Security duties

Fedpol’s security duties are carried out by the Federal Security Service (FSS). The FSS is responsible for the security of federal officials (members of government, members of parliament, civil servants) and people and buildings afforded protection under international law. It is in charge of the security of federal buildings in Switzerland (including the private residence of federal councillors and the property of officials deemed to be at risk), deploying its own security personnel in the parliament and other federal buildings, and it ensures the security of Swiss embassies and consulates abroad.

In addition, it recruits, trains and deploys air and ground marshals on board Swiss aircraft and at certain sensitive destinations abroad.  

Administrative tasks

Fedpol performs various administrative and co-ordination tasks. These include: issuing orders with regard to the import of arms and explosives; issuing entry bans; fighting violence at sporting events; combating violent propaganda; 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 matter (e.g. child pornography or sexual acts with children), which it then forwards to the competent cantonal law enforcement agency for follow-up action.

The Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) ‒ another fedpol office with administrative duties ‒ 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

Various sections within the Federal Criminal Police (FCP), the Directorates International Police Co-operation (IPC), Services and Staff office perform co-ordination tasks and provide administrative assistance. For example, following the attacks in summer 2009 on high-level employees of a well-known Swiss pharmaceutical company ‒ probably by militant animal rights’ activists ‒ the FCP co-ordinated the investigations in Switzerland and abroad, and the exchange of information between all agencies involved. Responsibility for carrying out the actual investigations remains with the cantons, however.

The International Police Co-operation Directorate (IPC) deals with all of fedpol’s international affairs. Its tasks include 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 Bureau (SIRENE = Supplementary Information Request at the National Entry), which is the contact point for all police alerts in the Schengen Information System, is incorporated into the IPC. The directorate also manages the police and customs co-operation centres (PCCCs) in Geneva and Chiasso, which facilitate co-operation in police and customs matters with the French and Italian authorities. In addition, the IPC is responsible for the deployment since 1995 of Swiss police attachés abroad, who assist the Swiss police and prosecution authorities in fighting cross-border crime.

Fedpol also provides its national and international partners (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, in collaboration with numerous federal and cantonal agencies as well as non-governmental and international organisations, develops strategies and instruments to prevent and prosecute human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and to improve victim protection.

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