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sizzler 16.01.2019 09:07

Police powers
 
I wanted to share a few anecdotal stories I have come across regarding the policing policies in Switzerland that run counter to what I understood.
These stories are anecdotal but come from people I know. I trust these people and believe they occurred pretty much the way I heard them, and the way I share them with you here now.

Shakedowns
A young man I know, who just became an adult, recalled an story with me about a police encounter that ran counter to what I had (naively) understood to be within the powers of the police.

He was walking along the sidewalk at night with track pants and a hoodie and headphones, the standard attire of his generation. Without provocation a police car stopped next to him and the officers demanded to search him. He complied and they found a cannabis joint on him. At this they issued him a chf100.- spot fine.
This shocked me. What I was stuck on was that he had done nothing to provoke the police. This was a case of profiling and arbitrary search and detention.

Now they did find a small amount of cannabis on him which justified the fine, but that was after the fact. I asked him how often this happens. He said it has happened more than a handful of times to him personally, many of the occasions being while he was a minor, and he had many such cases amongst his friends.

This lead me to believe that either:
The police really have this power, or
The police do not have this power but take advantage of the naivety of the youth to shake them down.

Spot searches
Another story I have heard which comes from a woman I know and is even more disturbing. On a weekend evening when her son (a minor at the time) was out with friends received a call at the door. She answered it to find a pair of police officers accompanying her son. They claim he was in possession of cannabis and insisted to search his bedroom. She was too shocked to refuse and they entered her house and search the boys bedroom.

This was a shock to me because I would have expected that such an intrusion into one's privacy would require some due process by the police beforehand. Some checks and balances so to speak.

Spot fines/bribery
The final case is another friend, a woman of eastern european descent, but lived in Switzerland for most of her life, was driving her car along the main road and had her phone in her hand. Now it is unsure if she was holding it to her ear or not but it was seen by a policeman and they pulled her over. This is quite OK and justified, but what happened next was rather disturbing.

The police officer told her that she was going to get a fine of chf100.- and she could pay it now.
She is self employed and was in a hurry and because the case of her guilt was clear enough to her, she wanted to conclude it with the least inconvenience, so she handed over a 100.- bill to the officer. At this point he told her she was free to leave. He had not looked at her driving licence, nor filled out any paperwork or given her any receipt for the fine. She only realised some minutes after leaving that this experience reminded her of the way police behave in her prior home country where police are often corrupt.

Had the Swiss police man just pocketed the fine?

____


These 3 examples are not fresh ones. It has been some time since I became aware of them but it was in a recent conversation with other expats that some other stories like this came to light which has prompted me to write this post.

Being an expat, I do not have the language knowledge to be able to myself be able to wade through legal texts to determine what the actual powers of the police are.
___

To spur a discussion: do any of you have similar stories to share with the community here? And are there any members of the community here that can enlighten the rest of us about such police powers? Have they been abused in these cases or do they really have such wide ranging powers?

Naivety of the law is often cited as no excuse. As an expat in a country I assume the laws by in large are the same as those of my home country, but this is a dangerous presumption. Lets get educated here.

Guest 16.01.2019 09:24

Re: Police powers
 
Anecdotes are anecdotes and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Clearly none of the people in the cases you mention above were moved sufficiently to make a complaint (or in the case of the fines, ask for a receipt) so I guess it stays no more than "just one of those things" :dunno:

Maybe where you come from the police are beyond repute. I think those places are very rare, though.

bigblue2 16.01.2019 09:26

Re: Police powers
 
whats your point?? in all 3 cases the people where breaking the law and the police caught them, can't wait for your next exciting thread.

maartenke 16.01.2019 09:28

Re: Police powers
 
I don't really see the problem.
3 times there was a crime in the situation, so the police always assessed the situation correctly.


And in your first example, it's because of boys like him, who have cannabis with them, this group is targeted. So you don't have to blame the police but the guy.

Swisstobe 16.01.2019 09:37

Re: Police powers
 
They were profiling, there was no evidence of a crime.

The same thing happened to my husband recently. He works in a residential area, and had changed for the gym post-work. The police pulled him over, searched him and tried to hold him despite not having any evidence of a crime. The only reason why they eventually let him go was because a colleague of his drove by and stopped to see what was the matter. Once she confirmed that he worked at the company, they let him go.

Turns out this has happened to other colleagues of his too, the "duffel bag" and "hoodie" were what gave them cause to search an innocent civilian. I find it laughable and ridiculous, considering where I come from which is essentially a police state. If they ever patrolled outside business hours the area I live in on the Rhine, they would be able to fine and hold hoards of pot smoking teenagers.

Guest 16.01.2019 09:42

Re: Police powers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sizzler (Post 3030775)
Shakedowns
A young man I know, who just became an adult, recalled an story with me about a police encounter that ran counter to what I had (naively) understood to be within the powers of the police.

He was walking along the sidewalk at night with track pants and a hoodie and headphones, the standard attire of his generation. Without provocation a police car stopped next to him and the officers demanded to search him. He complied and they found a cannabis joint on him. At this they issued him a chf100.- spot fine.
This shocked me. What I was stuck on was that he had done nothing to provoke the police. This was a case of profiling and arbitrary search and detention.

Now they did find a small amount of cannabis on him which justified the fine, but that was after the fact. I asked him how often this happens. He said it has happened more than a handful of times to him personally, many of the occasions being while he was a minor, and he had many such cases amongst his friends.


I think the clue is here, he was known to the police as a drug user/pusher.......

k_and_e 16.01.2019 09:54

Re: Police powers
 
"a friend" was driving in his car to go shopping and drove 57 km/h in a 50 zone. Suddenly, he got flashed and fined for speeding, even when doing nothing else wrong. He was even lucky that it was not visible on the photos that he was playing with his phone. And he was drunk. And wearing no seat belt. But he didn't use too much drugs.


In the end, he was lucky that he didn't lose his driving license because he didn't have one.


Still, my point is the the police checks people randomly.

st2lemans 16.01.2019 09:57

Re: Police powers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Swisstobe (Post 3030791)
They were profiling

And rightly so. ;)

Tom

Brian1985 16.01.2019 10:02

Re: Police powers
 
It's a fact of life that police, in every country that I have lived in, take advantage of the average citizen's ignorance of the law. Very few people, outside of those of us lucky enough to have attended law school, understand what powers the police actually have. If in doubt, it's best to say nothing and ask for a lawyer. The police may try to scare you into speaking but if you hold your ground they will back down.

Swisstobe 16.01.2019 10:05

Re: Police powers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by st2lemans (Post 3030805)
And rightly so. ;)

Tom

In this case, yes I guess...but a joint is no reason for a police search. The fact that it is not legal in this progressive country surprises me...but that is another subject. For every joint that they do catch, there are many others who are harassed and wrongfully intimidated for no reason.

The police here maintain "business hours" and are unpredictable. At the train station in the morning, there are hoards of police...but in the evening, when there are drug deals and drunks amok, they are nowhere to be found.

Mica 16.01.2019 10:11

Re: Police powers
 
No "evidence" of a crime is required. A suspicion is sufficient in order to conduct a search with the purpose of finding potential evidence. Hence walking in a residential area at dusk with a duffel bag can be suspicious since breaking and entering is at its peak this time of year hence additional police patrols in residential areas.

Police powers are governed both at a cantonal and federal level. For the Canton of Zurich, the Police Law of the Canton of Zurich regulates searches persons in §35 and in particular allows searches if the police have the suspicion that there may be objects subject to seizure (i.e. drugs, stolen goods, or tools for breaking and entering).

Searches of rooms are more restricted (see §37) and unless the conditions listed there are met would otherwise require a court order. However, if the owner (leaseholder) of the property consents...

sizzler 16.01.2019 10:20

Re: Police powers
 
The reason I bring these up is to explore what the legal powers of the police actually are in Switzerland. In all these cases, it seems the powers are far more than I assumed.

In the first case, the police had to physically search him to find the joint. in other words he was not high and was doing nothing otherwise wrong.

Further he told me that it had happened on numerous occasions in the past where they found nothing.


Profiling is a very slippery slope to abuse of powers.

An additional comment I would like to make is that of the opinion of the police by the youth today. It is not so positive. There is a fear that they are nabbed and the police who have a kind of impunity to stretch the law to suit themselves.

The well behaved nature of the Swiss I put down to the historically healthy and reciprocated respect between the populous and the constabulary. I hope this is not being stupidly eroded away right in front of our eyes.

sizzler 16.01.2019 10:23

Re: Police powers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mica (Post 3030811)
No "evidence" of a crime is required. A suspicion is sufficient in order to conduct a search with the purpose of finding potential evidence. Hence walking in a residential area at dusk with a duffel bag can be suspicious since breaking and entering is at its peak this time of year hence additional police patrols in residential areas.

Police powers are governed both at a cantonal and federal level. For the Canton of Zurich, the Police Law of the Canton of Zurich regulates searches persons in §35 and in particular allows searches if the police have the suspicion that there may be objects subject to seizure (i.e. drugs, stolen goods, or tools for breaking and entering).

Searches of rooms are more restricted (see §37) and unless the conditions listed there are met would otherwise require a court order. However, if the owner (leaseholder) of the property consents...

Quote:

However, if the owner (leaseholder) of the property consents...
. This I do not know and could very well be that the police asked to search the boys room.

slammer 16.01.2019 10:29

Re: Police powers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sizzler (Post 3030817)

Profiling is a very slippery slope to abuse of powers.

Why? Certain profiles fit to a "T" One that I saw was a Black 3-series BMW with Dutch plates and three dark skined occupants being taken to pieces at the Border in Basel.
As a border cop you simply canīt let that one pass without taking a closer look. As it was, I later read that they had been trying to bring drugs into CH.

Have to look at it from the copīs point of view.

sizzler 16.01.2019 10:41

Re: Police powers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by slammer (Post 3030826)
Why? Certain profiles fit to a "T" One that I saw was a Black 3-series BMW with Dutch plates and three dark skined occupants being taken to pieces at the Border in Basel.
As a border cop you simply canīt let that one pass without taking a closer look. As it was, I later read that they had been trying to bring drugs into CH.

Have to look at it from the copīs point of view.

This is border police. I think it is important to make a distinction here.
I live within a few km of the border myself and know this very well.

I want it to be clear I am not arguing that the police have too much power or not enough, I think such an argument is never ending once started. But I definitely want to know what power they actually do have so I can stand my ground if I am in a case when it is being abused.

Chemmie 16.01.2019 10:51

Re: Police powers
 
Tough topic!


There is a fine line between racial profiling, and looking for someone who happens to look like a certain race.


The latter becomes complicated due to the higher chance of xenophobia in Switzerland, and sudden influx of visually different immigrants from another country.


Happens to me fairly often, although 9 times out of 10, as soon as I speak American (Canadian ;) ) English to them, they drop out of aggression stance, smile, and say have a nice day. Before that, it is full intimidation interrogation.


Of course anecdotal, but a personal trend nevertheless.

Guest 16.01.2019 10:59

Re: Police powers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sizzler (Post 3030817)

In the first case, the police had to physically search him to find the joint. in other words he was not high and was doing nothing otherwise wrong.

Further he told me that it had happened on numerous occasions in the past where they found nothing.

Profiling is a very slippery slope to abuse of powers.

All you've managed to do is show how effective it can be. Of course there are many people carrying cannabis who don't fit any particular profile, just as there are (I assume) many who do fit but don't use cannabis, but this positive reinforcement will only encourage further profiling by the police, based on results.

If you don't want profiling to happen you need to stop the profiled group from breaking the law in the first place. If you don't think that's likely then you should ask yourself why exactly you think the profiling is wrong. Is it just that you think the law is wrong, so transgressors shouldn't be targetted? If so you should move to one of the more 'progressive' countries you mention.

maartenke 16.01.2019 11:03

Re: Police powers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sizzler (Post 3030817)

In the first case, the police had to physically search him to find the joint. in other words he was not high and was doing nothing otherwise wrong.



So if they suspect someone has a bomb around his waist but you can't see it they have no reason to physically search him if you're thinking like this.
Their profiling was spot on in my opinion

st2lemans 16.01.2019 11:13

Re: Police powers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sizzler (Post 3030832)
This is border police. I think it is important to make a distinction here.

Indeed, they have FAR more powers than normal police. ;)

Years ago, my girlfriend and I were out for a walk after dinner in the woods near her house (50m from the border), and were controlled for IDs, bags searched, etc.

And we were both middle-aged Swiss! :eek:

Shit happens.

Tom

Swisstobe 16.01.2019 12:20

Re: Police powers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mica (Post 3030811)
No "evidence" of a crime is required. A suspicion is sufficient in order to conduct a search with the purpose of finding potential evidence. Hence walking in a residential area at dusk with a duffel bag can be suspicious since breaking and entering is at its peak this time of year hence additional police patrols in residential areas. ...

Then why didn’t they let him go once he was searched and proven innocent of their suspicion? They continued to harass and suspect him with zero evidence.


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