Police in Germany

Police in Germany

1. Administration.

Germany has an extremely limited federal
police force. Basically all police functions are
the responsibility of the state police
departments. Their jurisdictions are strictly
divided and autonomous, and almost all police
activity takes place at the local levels, or in
cases of rural settlements, by the state police.
Administration of the police falls under the
control of the State Ministry of the Interior.
While the federal constitution provides for mutual
assistance between the federal and regional
police, the Federal Minister of the Interior and
the chief executive of the Federal police, may not
issue instructions to the state Ministers of the
The Federal Police consist of 1)the Railway
Police; 2)the Federal Border Police and a special
federal anti-terrorist group (GSG 9)15; 3)the
Police of the administrative departments of the
Federal Parliament; 4)Customs officers and the
Customs Investigative Branch (under the
jurisdiction of the Federal Minister of Finance);
and 5)the Federal Crime Investigation Office.
The main role of the Federal Crime
Investigation Police is to act as a central
clearinghouse for information and communications
of all Federal police forces and to combat crime
through such means as collection and analysis of
police intelligence, compilation of statistics,
research, identification and forensic science
laboratory services. The FCI also conducts
limited investigations in specific areas (for
example, counterfeiting, drugs, arms and
explosives — if there are international aspects
to the case, terrorism and political crimes).
They may be ordered or requested to conduct
investigations to aid local authorities
(International Criminal Police Review, 1987; 10).
The Security Program adopted by the Ministers
of the Interior of the states provides for a
relatively uniform police organization throughout
the states. The chief executive is the Minister
of the Interior of the State. Each state has a
Crime Investigating Office which serves the same
function at the state level that the Federal Crime
Investigating Office serves at the federal level.
Each state has the following police
components: 1)uniformed police, including special
emergency units such as those for crowd or riot
control, as well as marine police units
responsible for policing rivers, harbors and
coastal areas; 2)Detective Branch or Criminal
Police. Barring specific criminal activities
mentioned above, criminal investigations are
carried out at the local level by the detective
branch.; and 3)a Police Academy. The Police
Academy, River Police Office, Central Crime
Investigation Office, Telecommunications Center,
Payments Office, and Mobile Police fall within the
state police administrative structure, but outside
of the immediate chain of command.
The Police Directorate is at the lower level
and consists of uniformed officers and the
detective branch. This is directed by the Common
Chief Officer who maintains a central command and
control function. At the higher level is the
District Police Department, which is responsible
for several police directorates as well as for
specialty functions such as special operational
units, motorway police stations, and the forensic

2. Resources.

* Expenditures. In 1992, expenditures for the
federal and state police, including new
construction and other purchases, totaled
approximately 19 billion German marks.
(Zimmermann, 1993; 1).

* Number of Police. As of October 15, 1992, there
were 219,887 state police and 26,424 federal
police, for a total of 246,311 police. Of that
total, 152,884 were patrol officers, 28,616 were
detectives, 30,079 were mobile police, 2,802 were
located in police schools, and 5,506 police
operated in other capacities. (Zimmermann,
1993). These include the Border Police and the Air
Security Police, the Federal Railway Police, those
police protecting the German Parliament, as well
as employees at the Federal Criminal Investigation
Office. This figure does not reflect the actual total
number of detective officers. The German states
of Brandenburg and Sachsen-Anhalt did not report
figures for this category.

Gender information is limited. The
percentage of female officers at the lower levels
of the organization may reach as high as or even
exceed 50%. This percentage declines in the
higher levels of the police hierarchy. Since all
police officers must have German citizenship and
are therefore considered German, no further
information is available on ethnic origin.
(Zimmermann, 1993; 3).

3. Technology.

* Availability of police automobiles. As of
October 15, 1992, the state police reported a
total of 45,646 police vehicles, with an
additional 5,937 vehicles in federal police use,
for a total of 51,583 vehicles. This averages 21
vehicles per 100 officers at the state level, and
22 vehicles per 100 federal officers. (Zimmermann, 1993) This figure excludes 5 boot trailers and 25
water spraying wagons.

* Electronic equipment. In addition to computer
aided dispatch, radar and radio communications,
the German police have available to them a
national computerized information system, INPOL,
which links all state and federal police in
Germany. This system facilitates police in their
identification of those sought by the police or
missing persons and property. Further information
is provided on incarceration data, criminal files,
information on specific crimes of interest to the
police on a national level, documentary evidence
on specific cases, police crime statistics, an
automated fingerprint system, literature
documentation, PIOS-Data (data collection on
persons, organizations or objects which support
and facilitate organized crime), and the
INPOL-Land-Data (data on modus- operandi of
persons or cases) (Zimmermann, 1993; 4-6).

* Weapons. In general, police officers carry on
their persons a baton, a chemical spray (CN or
CS), handcuffs, and a 9mm Luger pistol. Machine
guns may be found in the car and on special patrol
(for instance at airports) or at the station.
Bullet- proof vests are carried in the patrol car.
In special circumstances police will be outfitted
with riot gear such as protective clothing, a
helmet, a shield and possibly a battering ram.
(Zimmermann, 1993).

4. Training and qualifications.

* Training. While training in each state is done
both at academies and on-the-job, the content and
length of the training varies from state to state.
In general, the training takes 2 1/2 years with a
6-month internship and another 6-month course of
study in criminology. In Berlin, for example,
training for a police officer involves a 3-year
period, with classes in psychology, law, political
science, English, criminology, sports, martial
arts, work ethics, and a short seminar on conflict
management and stress reduction. Three
examinations are administered throughout the
training period. (der Polizeipr„sident in Berlin,
1992; Zimmermann, 1993; 6).

* Selection and qualifications. The states differ
in their selection criteria. A school completion
of the middle level is generally required to
become a police officer. A recruit enters the
police department and trains to become either a
patrol officer or a detective. To become a
detective, some states require the applicant to
have graduated from a ‘gymnasium’ or college
preparatory high school before attending the
academy. Some states also require an examination
to transfer from the police officer position to
detective (Zimmermann, 1993; 7). The education
and training for police officers and detectives
run parallel. The main difference is that
detectives receive more training in criminology
and criminalistics while the patrol officers
receive more training in traffic administration
and traffic law (Zimmermann, 1993; 7). To become
a police patrol officer in Berlin, the applicant
must be German and be between the ages of 16 and
24, although older recruits may be taken if
certain requirements are met. In addition to
height and health requirements, the applicant must
also pass a written, a verbal, and a sports test,
must be able to swim, and cannot have a criminal
conviction. To be promoted to the upper ranks of
inspector or some other rank requires 2 years of
additional schooling. The first year is completed
at the respective state training academy and all
applicants spend the last year at a special
national academy, the Police Leadership Academy
(Polizei Fhrungsakademie) (der Polizeipr„sident
in Berlin, 1992; Gedaschke, 1993; Zimmermann,
1993; 6).

5. Discretion.

* Use of deadly force. The use of force is
dictated by police laws which share some
similarities between states, the general principle
being that minimal force shall be used in all
circumstances. Police laws (“Polizeigesetze”)
dictate specific circumstances under which
escalating force can be employed by police (to
include warning shots, shots fired into crowds,
the use of machine guns and hand grenades)
(Polizeiaufgabengesetz des Landes Bayern, 1990,
C01; 33-35; Polizeigesetz des Landes
Nordrhein-Westfalen, 1990, H02; 37- 38).
Bavaria is the only state in which the police
law specifically provides for police use of deadly
force. For example, in hostage situations, police
can aim to kill the hostage-taker. This is known
as the “final saving shot” or finalen
RettungsschuĂĄ. In other states and in other cases
in which deadly force is used, an internal police
investigation will occur to determine if the
officer was acting in self defense or defense of
others. (Erich, 1993 and Gadeschke, 1993)

* Stop/apprehend a suspect. Police may stop or
apprehend a suspect upon suspicion of violation of
a criminal or administrative statute. (Gedaschke,

* The Decision to arrest. The police are required
by procedural criminal law (StPO, s 163) to
investigate any criminal offense or administrative
procedural violation. The results of the
investigation are to be turned over to the
prosecutor’s office without delay. If it is
necessary to expedite the judicial examination of
a case, the prosecutor’s office may be bypassed
and the case can be sent directly to the court. The “Principle of
Legality” governs police
responsibilities and by law police have no
discretionary powers. This is especially true for
violations of criminal law; a certain degree of
latitude is available when regulatory offenses are
involved, which are governed by the “Principle of
Opportunity”. All law violators must be turned
over to the Prosecutor’s office. Violation of
statute 163 could make a police officer liable to
criminal prosecution for dereliction of duty
(Erich, 1993). In practice, however, police do
exercise discretion. As police are required by
law to officially intervene, there are no
departmental guidelines directing discretion.
Discretion is an individual choice exercised by
the officer. Police intervention will vary
depending on the following circumstances: whether
the individual is under suspicion for an offense;
whether the offense is of a petty nature; whether
the offense is widely socially acceptable; whether
the workload of the police is disproportionate to
the disposition likely handed down to the
offender; the degree of social closeness; and
whether the intervention will likely result in a
successful prosecution. 18 Information concerning
the number of arrests made without a warrant is
not available. (Bruckmeier, et al., 1984; Krause,

* Searches and seizures. Article 13 of the
Constitution permits police to conduct searches
and seizures of persons and private property only
with judicial endorsement. In cases of imminent
danger, permission may be given by the public
prosecutor’s office and/or its auxiliary officials
without judicial approval. Within 3 days after a
search based upon a decision by the prosecutor or
police, judicial confirmation must be obtained to
validate the search. Further entrance into a
residence and restriction of its inhabitants are
permitted only in situations concerning the
protection of a youth, control of epidemics,
prohibiting life-threatening situations to an
individual, or preventing an immediate danger to
the public safety and order. (Friedrich, 1987;

* Confessions. Police interrogations of a suspect
are governed by procedural law (StPO s 136, 136a).
At the initial interrogation, the accused must be
told of the charges against him and of his right
to consult with an attorney. Statements made
during the interrogation will be admitted into
court providing they have been obtained without
the following disqualifiers: the use of force,
trickery or deceit, threats, drugs, hypnosis or
exhaustion. (Friedrich, 1987; 57).

* Complaints against police behavior. Complaints
against police officers are handled internally by
a police review commission. Civilians are not
privy to reviews. If the complaints involve a
criminal offense, the information is turned over
to the public prosecutor’s office to determine if
the officer can be charged with a criminal
offense. Any killing by a police officer, even in
the line of duty, will automatically be turned
over to the homicide division for further
investigation. (Erich, 1993).

Note: this work was completed in 1993


See Also

  • Criminal Justice
  • Legal System
  • Criminology
  • German Criminal Justice System

Further Reading

  • Eser, Albin, “A Century of Penal Legislation in Germany” in Old Ways and New Needs in
    Criminal Legislation, Eser, Albin and Thormundsson (Eds.), Max-Planck-Institut: Freiburg, 1989, pp. 26.
  • “Federal Republic of Germany, The”, International Criminal Police Review, ICPO-INTERPOL, July-August 1987, Number 407, pp. 9-12.
  • Heinz, Volker G., “Germany” in EC Legal Systems: An Introductory Guide, by Sheridan, Maurice and Cameron, James (eds.), Butterworth and Co., Ltd.: London, 1992, pp. Germany iii – Germany 60.
  • International Criminal Police Review, “The Federal Republic of Germany”, Number 407, July-August 1987, Saint-Cloud, France; 9-12.

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