Policing Overview

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the responsibility for the maintenance of public security and order is divided between the 16 federal states and the federation with the federal states generally being in charge. The only policing carried out on the federal level lies with the Federal Police (Bundespolizei, BPOL) and the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA). Additionally, two other federal agencies are involved in security matters - the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND) and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV). The German Police University (Deutsche Hochschule der Polizei) is the main educational institute for law enforcement in Germany.

Border, railways and aviation security and management Overview

The Federal Police is mainly dealing with border, railways and aviation security and management. Conducting their work via regional and special directorates, it is also responsible for the protection of the shorelines.

Counter-Terrorism Overview

In addition to the police and intelligence agencies mentioned above, the following platforms respectively agencies are tasked with anti-terrorism activities: the Joint Counter-Terrorism Centre (Gemeinsames Terrorismusabwehrzentrum, GTAZ), the Joint Counter-Extremism and Terrorism Centre (Gemeinsames Extremismus- und Terrorismusabwehrzentrum, GETZ), as well as the GSG9 anti-terror unit.

Cyber/ICT Security Overview

The National Cyberdefence Centre (Nationales Cyber-Abwehrzentrum, NCAZ), founded in 2011, is a cooperation between several cyber defense resources: The Federal Office for Information Security (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik, BSI), the BND, the BfV, the Customs Criminal Investigation Office (Zollkriminalamt, ZKA), the German Military, the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe, BBK), as well as the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA).

State Police

Functions and missions

The Federal Republic of Germany is divided into 16 federal states (Länder), each with its own state police, and each organised differently since police competencies fall within the legislation of the federal states as laid down in Germany's Constitution.

Structure and organisation

For the execution of police competencies, the state police services are divided up basically into the following sectors, which are pretty similar in the functional structure in all federal states:

  • The State Police Service prevents and prosecutes local crime and can be divided between the uniformed police and the investigation section. The uniformed forces patrol the streets, respond to emergency calls, serves as a point of contact for the citizens and as a traffic and petty crime police for 24 hours a day throughout the year. The investigation sections, in general, are responsible for investigations in cases of crime.
  • The State Riot Police is deployed as an entire unit in response to requests for general support on the occasion of mass demonstrations, major sporting events, natural disasters and state visits. The Riot Polices of the states: are capable to support each other in the case of cross-border police operations during this mentioned occasions within in country of Germany.
  • The Waterways Police controls traffic on the country's domestic waterways, monitoring, in particular, the transport of hazardous material and/or dangerous goods and is competent for prosecuting waterside environmental offences.
  • The Helicopter Units are aerial forces deployed for tasks such as traffic surveillance and the specific search after missing persons. They also support local police offices in crime prevention and suppression;
  • The Special Weapons and Tactics Units (Spezialeinsatzkommandos) and Mobile Surveillance Units (Mobile Einsatzkommandos) are organized and managed differently in each of the individual federal states, but, in general, they are used to deal with cases of very serious crime or for special surveillance.
  • The State Criminal Police Office (Landeskriminalamt) is the main institution of the investigation section and deals with issues of state security, unlawful trafficking in firearms and explosives; serious cases of illegal drug trafficking, organised crime, money laundering, white-collar crime, and stolen works of art. It serves as a central agency for criminal investigation analysis, data processing, special training, and coordination of investigations.

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Federal Police

Functions and missions

The Federal Police (Bundespolizei or BPOL) is subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior and carries out extensive and manifold police duties based on a modern police law (Federal Police Act) and numerous other laws. The BPOL closely collaborates within the existing security networks on the basis of security co-operation and partnerships with the police services of the federal states, other security authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany and the federal states, as well as with foreign border authorities.

The main functions of the Federal Police are to:

  • ensure border security, including border checks, border surveillance and coast guard services (Grenzpolizei);
  • protect federal buildings and foreign embassies in the capital of Berlin and the former capital of Bonn, as well as the two highest German courts: the Federal Constitutional Court and the Federal High Court in Karlsruhe;
  • provide the federal government's mobile response force for internal security events;
  • ensure security on the German railways (Bahnpolizei);
  • provide counter-terrorism forces (GSG9), and
  • ensure compliance with aviation security standards at 13 German airports and
  • serve as air (or sky) marshals (Luftsicherheit).

The Federal Police is also able to reinforce the state police if requested to do so by a state government. They conduct criminal investigations only within their sphere of jurisdiction; otherwise, cases are referred to the appropriate state police service or to the national criminal investigative agency, the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt).

Structure and organisation

The Federal Police Headquarters in Potsdam is directly subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. The Federal Police Academy is located in Lübeck. Under the direction of the federal police headquarters, a total of 11 federal police directorates are set up all over the country.

The 9 federal police regional directorates are:

  • federal police regional directorate Bad Bramstedt, including the federal police department for maritime security
  • federal police regional directorate Hanover
  • federal police regional directorate Sankt Augustin
  • federal police regional directorate Koblenz
  • federal police regional directorate Stuttgart
  • federal police regional directorate Munich
  • federal police regional directorate Pirna
  • federal police regional directorate Berlin
  • federal police regional directorate Frankfurt Airport

Additionally, there are two directorates with non-regional tasks, the

  • federal police directorate for coordination of the public order support forces in Fuldatal
  • federal police directorate for special forces in Berlin

Education / Training

The Federal Police Academy in Lübeck is the central instruction and education institution of the Federal Police. The Federal Police Academy along with its six Federal Police and Advanced Training Centres throughout the country deliver basic training for the operational and the command level as well as specialized training.


Oversight over the Federal Police is exercised by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Building and Community.

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Federal Criminal Police Office

Functions and missions

The Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) is the central office for co-operation between the federation and the federal states in all criminal police matters. It also serves as the central office for police information and intelligence, and for the criminal police, and constitutes the National Central Bureau of the Federal Republic of Germany for the International Criminal Police Organisation (ICPO-Interpol).

The responsibilities of the Federal Criminal Police Office include:

  • Official relations of the police forces of both levels – federal and state - with foreign police and justice authorities, as well as with other relevant public bodies;
  • Assistance to federal and state police forces to prevent and prosecute criminal offences of inter-regional or international importance, or of considerable significance;
  • Police tasks related to criminal prosecution;
  • Protection of members of constitutional organs;
  • Protection of witnesses, their families or close associates.

Structure and organisation

Since January 2005, the Bundeskriminalamt has been re-organised into nine divisions (i.e International Co-ordination, State Security, Serious and Organized Crime, Protection Division, Central CID Services, Institute of Law Enforcement Studies and Training, Forensic Science Institute, Information Technology, and Central and Administrative Affairs). It is headed by a President assisted by two Vice Presidents.


Training of BKA criminal police officers is provided at the Federal College of Public Administration. The Federal Criminal Police Office also offers apprenticeships in ten different vocations.


Oversight over the Federal Criminal Police Office is exercised by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Building and Community.

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Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution

Functions and missions

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) plays an indispensable role in protecting the internal security of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its task is to avert all efforts meant to harm the country, the free democratic basic order, and the population. To this end, the BfV collects and analyses information about extremist, terrorist, and any other efforts posing a threat to security, and foreign intelligence services’ activities directed against Germany. The predominant purpose of collating all gathered information is to keep the Federal Government informed about the security situation. The BfV is tasked with the collection and the analysis of information on

  • efforts:
    • directed against the free democratic basic order or
    • against the existence and the security of the Federation or one of its States or
    • aimed at unlawfully hampering constitutional bodies of the Federation or one of its States or their members in the performance of their duties or
    • jeopardizing foreign interests of the Federal Republic of Germany by the use of violence or the preparation thereof or
    • directed against the idea of international understanding (article 9, para. 2 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG)), especially against the peaceful coexistence of people.
  • intelligence activities carried out on behalf of a foreign power (counter-intelligence).
  • In addition, the BfV contributes also to counter-sabotage and personnel/physical security.

Structure and organisation

The BfV responds to geopolitical changes and to the security situation by taking the appropriate personnel and organisational measures. The terrorist acts committed by violent Islamist perpetrators have led to a new department being set up to counter Islamism and Islamist terrorism, and the acts of violence of the right-wing extremist National Socialist Underground (Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund, NSU) have prompted the BfV to implement radical changes. Areas of work have been merged, in particular, to bolster our department "Right-wing Extremism and Terrorism".

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is led by a President and a Vice President. As of March 2013, the BfV's organisational structure is as follows:

  • Department Z: Central Services
  • Department IT: Information Technology and Operational Intelligence Technology
  • Department 1: Basic Issues
  • Department 2: Right-wing Extremism/Terrorism
  • Department 3: Central Operational Support
  • Department 4: Counter-espionage, Personnel/Physical Security, Counter-sabotage and Protection Against Industrial Espionage
  • Department 5: Extremism of foreigners and Left-wing Extremism
  • Department 6: Islamism and Islamist Terrorism


The BfV is supervised by various bodies and on various levels. This oversight includes administrative control as well as parliamentary and judicial control, ranging to public control. The details are as follows:

  • Administrative Control: Administrative and technical supervision of the BfV is exercised by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Building and Community. The BfDI – Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information ensures the implementation of data protection regulations and compliance with pertinent service regulations; in the exercise of his duties, he has the right to inspect records. The BRH – Federal Court of Audit exerts financial control over the German intelligence services – including the BfV – and informs the Vertrauensgremium (Confidential Committee), the Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium (PKGr – Parliamentary Control Panel) as well as the BMI on the results of the reviews.
  • Parliamentary Control: General parliamentary supervision of the BfV takes place in the form of debates, Aktuelle Stunden (debates on matters of topical interest) and urgent interpellation as well as minor and major interpellation in the German Parliament. Supervision also takes the form of reporting to the Committee on Internal Affairs, the Budget Committee and, if required, to a committee of inquiry. In addition, citizens are entitled to submit petitions, which are dealt with by the Petitions Committee of the Bundestag.
  • Special parliamentary controls are carried out by the Parliamentary Control Panel (PKGr), the Confidential Committee of the Budget Committee and by the G10 Commission.

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German Police University

Functions and missions

The German Police University (Deutsche Hochschule der Polizei, DHPol) in Münster is a University addressing all senior police officers of the Federation and the German Federal states. It provides the most important forum bringing together science and practice and aimed at discussing matters of policing in Germany. The German Police University integrates similarities and varieties of policing approaches in Germany, which are due to the federal structure of our country.

The core responsibility of the German Police University is to provide the German police services with first-class education and training opportunities for their senior police officers. The University does so by closely linking science and practical policing matters. Based on a sophisticated scientific foundation, the students’ abilities and skills are being deepened and broadened. In this context, a particular focus is placed on their practical know-how and their outstanding professional skills. Training and further training courses are designed in a cross-sectional way beyond faculties and according to high profile methods of learning, which the German Police University constantly develops further on in an attempt to provide students with the best possible service. The German Police University conducts user-oriented, customised and state of the art further training courses. These cover topical subjects in the areas of security, crime strategies and police operational strategies. The University self-understanding is that of a national and international forum for discussion and reflection for the benefit of senior police officers. This professional development scheme enables the German police service to react to severe changes in society and to particular challenges relating to security and public order situations.

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Border Security Agencies

Functions and missions

Border Security and Management rests with the Federal Police if the State Police - in accordance with the Federal State - does not already administer it. Together with several other federal and state agencies, the Federal Police is also protecting the coast of Germany. The agencies have a common plan of action and direct their operations from the Joint Emergency Reporting and Assessment Centre Sea (JERACS) and the operational core of the Maritime Safety and Security Center (MSSC) in Cuxhaven.

 The Federal Police performs the following duties:

  • Surveillance of borders
  • Controlling border traffic
  • Organization and performance of border-related manhunts and searches
  • Providing security and amending risks in the border area

The BPOL Aviation Group is directly subordinate to the federal police directorate special forces. It controls the five aviation squadrons around the country that operate the force's helicopters. These are located in Fuhlendorf (North, with satellite airfield in Gifhorn), Blumberg (East), Fuldatal (Centre), Oberschleißheim (South) and Sankt Augustin (West). Its duties include border surveillance.

Structure and organisation

The BPOL national headquarters (BPOL-Präsidium) in Potsdam performs all central control functions. The nine regional headquarters (BPOL-Direktion) control the BPOL stations conducting railway police and border protection missions. These areas of responsibility conform to the federal state boundaries what they did not do prior to 1 March 2008.

The so-called Küstenwache is an association of several federal agencies, who work closely together:

  • Bundespolizei (Federal Police), Ministry of the Interior
  • Waterways and Shipping Offices, Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV), Federal Ministry for Transport, Construction and Urban Development
  • Kontrolleinheit See (Maritime Customs Service), Federal Customs Administration, Federal Ministry of Finance
  • Federal Agency for Agriculture and Nutrition (BLE), Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food, and Agriculture
  • Federal Police, Maritime Customs Service and Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration with the Point of Contact (PoC) operate in the Federal Command and Control Centre for Maritime Security.


The specific training regarding border security and management is conducted at the Federal Police Academy (Bundespolizeiakademie, BPOLAK) in Lübeck.

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Joint Counter-Terrorism Centre, Joint Centre for Countering Extremism and Terrorism, and GSG-9

Functions and missions

The GTAZ (Joint Counter-Terrorism Centre), based in Berlin, is not an autonomous authority but a joint co-operation and communication platform in the field of Islamic terrorism used by 40 internal security agencies. It was set up on 14 December 2004.

The GETZ (Joint Centre for Countering Extremism and Terrorism) started its work on 15 November 2012 and is located in Cologne. Here, co-operation between the police and the community of the German domestic intelligence services, between the Federation and the federal states in the fields of right-wing extremism/terrorism, left-wing extremism/terrorism, extremism of foreigners, counter-espionage and proliferation is organized under one roof.

Additionally, the GSG 9 of the German Federal Police is a counter-terrorism/special intervention unit for operations against organized crime and terrorist threats. Trained especially to handle complex attack scenarios and hostage-taking situations in the home country or abroad (in buildings, aircraft, public transportation, maritime objects). Standing procedures are operations / undercover operations against organized crime including using of weapons, EOD or dangerous goods and assistance for the BKA, State Police and Customs to arrest dangerous criminals and terrorists. The GSG 9 carries out special skills and tactics, disposes of specialized equipment and is in charge of examination and further development of all involved procedures. The unit has the ability to operate in a 24h standby and is on short call to support - exemplary their counterpart on the state level, the Special Deployment Commandos - or other federal and local agencies on request.

Structure and organisation

Crucial for the success of the GTAZ and the GETZ is the co-operation between intelligence and police institutions and actors. The prerequisite for their co-operation "under one roof" was setting up two separate pillars, i.e. the Nachrichtendienstliche Informations- und Analysestelle (NIAS – Intelligence Information and Analysis Unit) and the Polizeiliche Informations- und Analysestelle (PIAS – Police Information and Analysis Unit). Both NIAS and PIAS members closely co-operate in several working groups (WG) that serve various purposes. Besides dealing with current cases and threat prognoses, they also draw up medium- or longer-term analyses.

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National Cyberdefence Centre (NCAZ)

Functions and missions

The National Cyberdefence Centre (NCAZ) pools the cyberdefence resources of the Federal Office for Information Security, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the Federal Intelligence Service, the Federal Police, the Customs Criminal Investigation Office, the German Military, the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, and the Federal Criminal Police Office.

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Criminal Justice System

General information

The German courts are largely specialized and fall into five categories:

  • Civil and criminal courts: responsible for criminal matters, civil cases and voluntary jurisdiction, they are organized into four levels: the local courts (Amtsgerichte), regional courts (Landgerichte), higher regional courts (Oberlandesgerichte) and the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof).
  • Labour courts - local, state and federal
  • Administrative courts - local, state and federal
  • Social courts - local, state and federal
  • Fiscal courts - state and federal

The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) which is the country‘s supreme court, is separate from the five branches of jurisdiction.


Public prosecution offices are institutions of the administration of justice enjoying independence from the courts. The prosecution service is part of the judiciary, but not a court. Prosecutors are civil servants by status.In the case of the Federal Court of Justice, the office of prosecutor is exercised by the Federal Prosecutor General (Generalbundesanwalt), in the case of a higher regional court, by a Prosecutor General, and in the case of a regional court, by a Senior Prosecutor-in-Charge, together with their respective staff.

The public prosecutors are, for the most part, concerned with criminal proceedings. It is their responsibility to establish the facts when a person is suspected of having committed a crime. They must decide whether to discontinue the proceedings or to indict the suspect. In court proceedings, they are the prosecuting counsels. Unlike judges, public prosecutors are civil servants.

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