What types of police exist in Germany?

The police is, like many other German institutions, organised under federal regulations. There are 16 police headquarters in various federal states, all of which cooperate with the Federal Police (BP) and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). Besides, there are also customs police officers and agents ("Feldjäger") of the German Federal Armed Forces ("Bundeswehr") with the tasks of the military police. The officers of the criminal police do not wear uniforms. All the other officers of the police who are in charge of protection could be recognised by their green or blue uniform. These are the cops you daily see patrolling, to whom you can directly approach if you need.

How do I recognise the police?

You can recognise the police by their blue or green-beige uniform. Since 2004, an attempt has been made to match up the colour of police uniforms and vehicles across the European Union. Since this process is not yet completed, you can see both colour variants depending on the state. There are also special clothing, for example for police officers who ride motorcycles, horses or bicycles. Depending on the situation, law enforcement officers can also wear protective vests, helmets, batons and various weapons.

What duties does the police have?

The police is responsible for the investigation of burglaries, traffic accidents and other offences. Besides, they provide children in primary schools with Traffic courses to prevent accidents and ward off dangers. The officers also ensure the security of sporting events and demonstrations and advice on safety and security. Investigating cases of domestic violence, stalking and crimes on the Internet are among other police tasks. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can call the police or the "Gewalt gegen Frauen" helpline under 08000 116 016, where you can receive advises in 17 languages ​​around the clock.

The criminal police, consisting of the 16 State Criminal Police Offices (LKA) and the Federal Criminal Police Office ("Bundeskriminalamt" or BKA), is responsible for the national crime control. It occasionally also conducts investigations involving foreign elements, but only in the cases of ​​larg scale and organised crime.

The protection of state institutions and personnel, the prosecution of criminal offenders, border protection and the fight against international terrorism are among the responsibilities of the Federal Police. Here you can see an explanatory film about the tasks of the federal police and its special unit, GSG 9.

The German police do not collaborate with the secret service. The Federal Intelligence Service ("Bundesnachrichtendienst" or BND) is responsible for the intelligence issues in Germany. The police in Germany also does not intimidate or assault political dissidents. You can express your opinion freely as the freedom of expression is a specified basic right in the German Basic Law.

 

When should I call the police?

You should call the police in the cases of:

You can also call the police in the cases of administrative offense. For example, when someone in your neigbourhood is making loud voices during resting hours (“Ruhezeiten”).

If you call the emergency number 110, the officers arrive at the scene as soon as possible. The police also count on the citizen's engagement, participation and civil courage. Whenever you see a crime or notice someone is in danger, you should inform the police. For example, if you notice political or religious radicalisation of a young adult around you, you can report this to the police. For this purpose, you can also contact and consult the BAMF's Radicalisation Counselling ("Radicalisierungsberatung") at 0911 943 43 43 in several languages. If you are a victim of right-wing, racist, anti-Semitic or Islamophobic violence, you can contact one of these counselling centres.

What should I tell the police during an emergency call?

The following information is necessary for the police in situations of emergency:

Wait for further questions and do not put down the phone until you are asked to do so. Depending on how dangerous the situation is, the police will be at the scene promptly.

How can I file a complaint against an offender?

You can place a criminal complaint at a police station or -in some federal states- report the crime online. Particularly in the major cities, it may take a long time for a complaint to be processed. It usually has to do with huge bureaucratic hassles, lack of enough personnel and the large number of complaints. However, the police are obliged to process all claims. Even if you do not hear from them for a long time, it does not mean that your complaint has been purposely ignored.

Plain-clothes police and "fake police"

The police do not always wear uniforms. In particular, criminal police officers also work in "civilian" clothing and therefore are visually unrecognisable as the police force. They often have to hide their identity, for example, to observe people or to enforce arrest warrants. If a police officer is in civilian clothes, this does not by any mean indicate that he is working with the intelligence service. The Federal Intelligence Service ("Bundesnachrichtendienst" or BND) is responsible for the intelligence issues in Germany.

There are also fraudsters who may falsely impersonate police officers. If you suspect that someone is a "fake officer" and can cause danger, call the police emergency number 110. If there is no threat, but you doubt the authenticity of a federal officer's proof of service ("Dienstausweis"), you can also call the hotline Contact of the Federal Police ("Bundespolizei") at 0800 6 888 000.

What happens if someone insults an officer?

"Beamtenbeleidigung" or "insulting an Official" is a term you might have heard here and there, but it actually is not a separate term in the law. There is no specific fine for each particular expression and offensive word. According to §185 of the Criminal Code, insulting police officers is just like insulting any other person and the both cases are penalised in the same way. The amount of penalty you have to pay for insulting depends on what the courts had previously defined.

What can I do if the police discriminate against me?

The federal police, in particular, is obliged to prevent unauthorised entries to the country. For this reason, its forces may check IDs on trains, stations and airports even if nothing suspicious has happened. If the police control people because of their dark skin or other features that imply their migration background, this falls under the category of "Racial Profiling". However, "Controls without individualised suspicion" ("verdachtsunabhängige Kontrollen") are, in principle, permitted under Section 22 of the Federal Police Act. That's why you should always have your ID with you. If you have been treated in a racist way or suffered from a racial harassment during a security check, you can contact a counselling centre.

There are things that police officers are not authorised to do. For instance, police officers are not allowed to search you or your home, unless you are charged with a criminal offence (§102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure  or StPO) or a person who is suspected of a crime is assumed to be staying with you (§103 StPO).

If a male police officer wants to search you as a woman, you have the right to ask for a female police officer for the search. In principle, you can always refuse to make statements to the police by saying: "I do not make any remarks about this" ("Hierzu mache ich keine Angaben") or "I refuse to give a statement" ("Ich verweigere die Aussage"). You may also ask for the service ID number and the authorisation of a policeman and write the data down. With such information, you can later file a complaint against the officer. If you are arrested, you have the right to call a lawyer (emergency service 0172-3255553).

Can I become a police officer?

In principle, German citizenship is the prerequisite for becoming a police officer in Germany. Police forces are categorised as civil servants, and as a general rule, one may only work as a public servant if he is a German citizen( in the sense of Article 116 of the Basic Law). But the state laws also have a say in the appointment of civil servants. In each federal state, there are different regulations on whether and when one can become a public servant without holding a German passport. Therefore, it may be that you can start police training under certain conditions, even if you do not have German citizenship. To find out more about the relevant rules and regulations in your federal state, check with the Police Union, your local police or www.polizeitest.de.

Depending on the level of service you are striving for, various school certificates are also required. Besides, you should have no criminal records, (in some federal estates) maintain a certain body size, and meet specific health criteria. If you meet all these prerequisites, you can register for an eligibility procedure ("Eignungsverfahren") at a police school ("Polizeischule" or "Polizeifachschule").