Cantonal police corps

The cantonal police director of each canton is a member of the cantonal government and assumes political responsibility for the cantonal police. The organisational and financial framework is defined by the cantonal parliament. In most cantons, the tasks, powers and organisational structure of the respective police corps are defined in detail in a police law.

The various cantonal police laws largely correspond to each other with regard to the powers and duties of police officers. The reason for this is that if individual police measures involve the infringement of a citizen’s basic rights, the cantons have to comply with the provisions of Swiss constitutional law, international law (especially the European Human Rights Convention) and the practice of the Federal Court. Naturally, these provisions apply to all cantons alike.

With regard to the structure, training, arming, equipping and uniforming of their police, the cantons largely have the freedom of discretion. At the same time, there is a high level of co-operation between the various corps:

  • German-speaking cantons usually subdivide their corps into three main areas: criminal police, security police and traffic police. 
  • French-speaking cantons arrange their corps in two groups: gendarmerie and sûreté. The former corresponds to the Swiss-German security police and usually includes the traffic police, whilst the latter is the equivalent to the criminal police. 
  • The police force of the Italian-speaking canton Ticino has its own structure based on geographical sectors. 
  • Canton Basel Stadt warrants special mention since the criminal police in that canton are headed by the public prosecutor’s office, whereas search and alerts are the responsibility of the police command. 

The various corps also have special units, intervention groups and individual units, such as the lake police and airport police.


Last modification 09.06.2020

Top of page