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Policing overview: The National Police is the main law enforcement unit in Austria in charge of ensuring public order and security, preventing and combating crime, and assisting civil society. The Prison Guards (Justizwache) are in charge of guarding detention centres and prison inmates, but also of working in various institutions within these prisons.

National Police

1. Functions and missions
The mission of the National Police (Bundespolizei) is to maintain public safety, fight crime, and assist civil society in various ways, including crime prevention measures.

2. Structure and organization
The Austrian National Police was re-organized in 2005, consolidating the former law enforcement bodies (i.e. the Public Security Constabulary, Criminal Investigation Service and Gendarmerie) into a single unit.

The General Directorate for Public Security (Generaldirektion fuer oeffentliche Sicherheit) is part of the Ministry of the Interior and is in charge of: approx. 1000 police stations within district commands (27 city police commands and 83 district police commands). The district commands are part of 9 provincial police commands. 

The laws outlining the powers/duties of the National Police are the:

  • Police Law (Sicherheitspolizeigesetz or SPG);

  • Criminal Code of Procedure (Strafprozessordnung or StPO); and

  • Criminal Law (Strafgesetzbuch or StGB)

3. Staff data
As of 2006, total policing staff numbered approximately 20,000 serving throughout the country's nine provinces.

4. Education / Training
The Security Academy (Sicherheitsakademie, SIAK), part of the Ministry of the Interior, provides basic, as well as continuing education and training. Ten Training Centres for Security Forces (Bildungszentren der Sicherheitsexekutive, BZS) offer further police training, with centres located in all nine federal provinces. 

Basic training: After passing an entry level exam (i.e. written test, followed by an interview and medical exam), candidates start a 24-month basic training programme that consists of:

  • 12 months training in theory;

  • 2 months ‘on the job’ training at a police station;

  • 7 months main training at the Training Centres; and

  • 3 months ‘on the job’ at a police station.

Basic training concludes with a final exam.

Continuing training: This is offered according to the needs and requirements of the service, as well as to educate more specialized officers (e.g. criminal investigation officers).

5. Oversight
The Federal Bureau for Internal Affairs (BIA) is an autonomous agency of the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior that operates outside the classical law enforcement structures. In its capacity as an independent autonomous organizational unit which is not bound by instructions regarding the cases it handles, it conducts security and criminal police investigations in cases of corruption or suspected malpractice by public officers. In such cases, the BIA co-operates directly with the competent public prosecutor’s offices and courts.

The BIA conducts investigations nationwide and, given its sphere of responsibilities, represents a centre of competence for all other security services. Other important tasks performed by the BIA are training programmes and the prevention of corruption. In addition to organizing and conducting courses, seminars and advanced career coaching programmes at the Austrian Security Academy for colleagues from the Ministry of the Interior, BIA staff members have repeatedly been invited to give lectures at national and international educational institutions and at conferences.

The BIA acts as the Ministry’s contact point for all anti-corruption matters and delegates staff members to Austrian and international meetings of experts. Furthermore, it interacts with a number of local government bodies, NGOs and interest groups involved in anti-corruption activities.

At the international level, the BIA was also instrumental in initiating and setting up an informal association of the Police Monitoring and Inspection Bodies of the EU Member Countries as well as of the national Anti-Corruption Agencies. Moreover, the BIA is tasked with assuring technical networking as well as safeguarding and intensifying international cooperations in the fight against corruption.

Shooting incidents are investigated by the Cobra Special Forces.

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Prison Guards

1. General information
The Prison Guards (Justizwache) are directly subordinate to the Ministry of Justice and are in charge, not only of guarding detention centres and prison inmates, but also of working in various institutions within these prisons (e.g. prison workshops). The total number of staff is approximately 3,000.

2. Education / Training
Education includes regular training in the institutions of the School of Prison Guards, which belongs to the Ministry of Justice, and in the Penal System's Centre  for Continuing Education, as well as through external educational bodies.

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Criminal Justice System

1. General information
The federal court system includes District Courts, Regional Courts (=Courts of First Instance), Courts of Appeal (=Courts of Second Instance), and the Supreme Court.

Courts try both civil and criminal cases. Each District Court covers an area extending over one or more communes; each Regional Court covers several district courts. The Courts of Appeal each cover two or more lower courts.

2. Prosecution
Offices of public prosecution are special authorities separated from the courts which above all protect the public interest of the justice in penal affairs. This contains mainly the indictment and the representation during the trial and thus the offices of public prosecution are also called accusation authorities. The offices of public prosecution are not independent, but structured hierarchically and bound to instructions of the senior office of public prosecution and finally of the Federal Minister of Justice.

In carrying out their duties, Public Prosecutors are authorized to have direct contact with, and enlist the support of, police authorities and other authorities. 

3. Pre-trial police and judicial powers

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