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Old 16.01.2019, 09:07
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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.
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Old 16.01.2019, 09:24
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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"

Maybe where you come from the police are beyond repute. I think those places are very rare, though.
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Old 02.02.2019, 01:53
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Re: Police powers

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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"

Maybe where you come from the police are beyond repute. I think those places are very rare, though.
Police often commit crimes, content in the knowledge that the complaints department are trained in dismissing complaints.
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Old 16.01.2019, 09:26
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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.
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Old 17.01.2019, 19:43
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Re: Police powers

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...can't wait for your next exciting thread.
Why the sarcasm? I thought the post was quite interesting.
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Old 16.01.2019, 09:28
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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.
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Old 16.01.2019, 09:37
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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.
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Old 16.01.2019, 09:57
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Re: Police powers

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They were profiling
And rightly so.

Tom
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Old 16.01.2019, 10:05
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Re: Police powers

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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.
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Old 16.01.2019, 10:20
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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.
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Old 20.01.2019, 13:17
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Re: Police powers

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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.
I have a friend who workers in a butcher's shop. They always have a number of joints down in the freezer. But the police never intimidate anybody. Probably because the police are racist or something.
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Old 17.01.2019, 17:11
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Re: Police powers

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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.
I can relate to this, it was a shock for me also how the police decided just to search me, even though I am a white female was just standing at the bus station late evening after gym, when an undercover cop in usual clothes in usual skoda car just stopped in front of me, I got really scarred at first because I was alone and there was no one around, my first thought was to immediately run, but instead I started to walk away to see if he starts to follow, then the cop got out of the car and said in German to stop, showed his identity badge (only name written and that point I was already at some distance from him and I couldn't really understand he is a cop) and basically said "Give me your residence permit, and what I am doing at the bus station?". I couldn't believe it and couldn't just give my residence permit to some random guy, so I kept asking who is he and what does he want (at some distance from him), he only kept repeating he is from police and needs my residence permit (but I already heard plenty of stories about criminals pretending to be police to rob you), good at least later the usual police car full of cops arrived in uniform and for sure my basic self-preserving instincts were interpreted as I was a resistant criminal who has to be fully searched, and I got the full procedure, all documents were taken from me to be checked at the gym, phone taken from me immediately, all personal details written down, all my jewelry written down and constant questions "if it belongs to me", lasted for an hour or so, the entire situation I felt like a helpless person stripped from my bag and documents with 5 cops exercising on me what they have learned at their school. Only after that situation I realized in what country I am and how helpless you are even if you didn't do anything (may be the guys are more immune to such things, but for me it was a real shock). Since then I avoid even any eye contact with them, because my entire life mentality of a usual white female, who never has any troubles, quickly evaporated here, and especially after I started to drive here, this is when even more searches happen and more troubles start. The best is to avoid at maximum any intersection with them, but when a search does happen there is no point in claiming any rights and it is better not to resist anything.
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Old 20.01.2019, 11:26
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Re: Police powers

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I can relate to this, it was a shock for me also how the police decided just to search me, even though I am a white female was just standing at the bus station late evening after gym, when an undercover cop in usual clothes in usual skoda car just stopped in front of me, I got really scarred at first because I was alone and there was no one around, my first thought was to immediately run, but instead I started to walk away to see if he starts to follow, then the cop got out of the car and said in German to stop, showed his identity badge (only name written and that point I was already at some distance from him and I couldn't really understand he is a cop) and basically said "Give me your residence permit, and what I am doing at the bus station?". I couldn't believe it and couldn't just give my residence permit to some random guy, so I kept asking who is he and what does he want (at some distance from him), he only kept repeating he is from police and needs my residence permit (but I already heard plenty of stories about criminals pretending to be police to rob you), good at least later the usual police car full of cops arrived in uniform and for sure my basic self-preserving instincts were interpreted as I was a resistant criminal who has to be fully searched, and I got the full procedure, all documents were taken from me to be checked at the gym, phone taken from me immediately, all personal details written down, all my jewelry written down and constant questions "if it belongs to me", lasted for an hour or so, the entire situation I felt like a helpless person stripped from my bag and documents with 5 cops exercising on me what they have learned at their school. Only after that situation I realized in what country I am and how helpless you are even if you didn't do anything (may be the guys are more immune to such things, but for me it was a real shock). Since then I avoid even any eye contact with them, because my entire life mentality of a usual white female, who never has any troubles, quickly evaporated here, and especially after I started to drive here, this is when even more searches happen and more troubles start. The best is to avoid at maximum any intersection with them, but when a search does happen there is no point in claiming any rights and it is better not to resist anything.
that's utter bollocks. why? because it is so unusual to start with your permit as he doesn't know if you are a tourist or a resident, an expat that ultimately has a permit. if he was asking for ID id say this could be the case. how come the support arrived? did he inform them? was it just random? could it be that a woman fitting your description in the area was what they were looking for? you are not helpless, you did just not behave to not escalate the whole thing. that's my take and you should eventually think about it: speeding, strip search etc. maybe it's you?
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Old 20.01.2019, 12:50
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Re: Police powers

I gig fairly regularly and one of the bands I play with has a rehearsal room in an area known for drug deals. Quite often I'm travelling back from a gig at 2-3-4am, or leaving the rehearal room at 11pm and it is not unusual to be stopped by the police.

I never do drugs and if I'm driving I never drink alcohol - not even a panache.

The police are just normal people like the rest of us. Some are OK, some really nice and some are complete idiots. Now when I'm stopped I imagine them as complete idiots until they prove otherwise, pretty much like they treat me as a criminal until I can prove otherwise.

Most of the people I know here in CH are Swiss born and bred, and generally they don't think highly of the police.
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Old 20.01.2019, 18:04
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Re: Police powers

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I can relate to this, it was a shock for me also how the police decided just to search me, even though I am a white female was just standing at the bus station late evening after gym, when an undercover cop in usual clothes in usual skoda car just stopped in front of me, I got really scarred at first because I was alone and there was no one around, my first thought was to immediately run, but instead I started to walk away to see if he starts to follow, then the cop got out of the car and said in German to stop, showed his identity badge (only name written and that point I was already at some distance from him and I couldn't really understand he is a cop) and basically said "Give me your residence permit, and what I am doing at the bus station?". I couldn't believe it and couldn't just give my residence permit to some random guy, so I kept asking who is he and what does he want (at some distance from him), he only kept repeating he is from police and needs my residence permit (but I already heard plenty of stories about criminals pretending to be police to rob you), good at least later the usual police car full of cops arrived in uniform and for sure my basic self-preserving instincts were interpreted as I was a resistant criminal who has to be fully searched, and I got the full procedure, all documents were taken from me to be checked at the gym, phone taken from me immediately, all personal details written down, all my jewelry written down and constant questions "if it belongs to me", lasted for an hour or so, the entire situation I felt like a helpless person stripped from my bag and documents with 5 cops exercising on me what they have learned at their school. Only after that situation I realized in what country I am and how helpless you are even if you didn't do anything (may be the guys are more immune to such things, but for me it was a real shock). Since then I avoid even any eye contact with them, because my entire life mentality of a usual white female, who never has any troubles, quickly evaporated here, and especially after I started to drive here, this is when even more searches happen and more troubles start. The best is to avoid at maximum any intersection with them, but when a search does happen there is no point in claiming any rights and it is better not to resist anything.

Total fantasy
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Old 21.01.2019, 00:00
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Re: Police powers

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Total fantasy
Gosh I wish it was, up to this day cannot comprehend what the f* was that, and as ChrisNeedsToKnow described usefully how those cops cars looks like, in my case the guy was alone in his car and then after refusing giving to him my permit into his hands he called for a real police car with cops inside, only at that point I could understand well now there is no problem to give finally my documents, but I bet they didn't like my attitude for sure , at that very moment I was sure they are violating my rights without explaining anything started all together searching through all my stuff and took immediately my phone, but after they searched everything the guy in swiss german talked to his colleague "well actually we look for a brown hair woman" while I am blonde. So they were in search for someone, but didn't mind to shovel my attitude where they think it belongs and from this forum I can now clearly see how Swiss allergic to foreigners with their "my rights, my privacy, my opinion, my mentality" and god forbid to say "some rule is stupid", they will not miss a chance to show you where the door is, but the more amusing it to me and now waiting for my fan base to start groaning....
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Old 30.01.2019, 11:49
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Re: Police powers

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I can relate to this, it was a shock for me also how the police decided just to search me, even though I am a white female was just standing at the bus station late evening after gym, when an undercover cop in usual clothes in usual skoda car just stopped in front of me, I got really scarred at first because I was alone and there was no one around, my first thought was to immediately run, but instead I started to walk away to see if he starts to follow, then the cop got out of the car and said in German to stop, showed his identity badge (only name written and that point I was already at some distance from him and I couldn't really understand he is a cop) and basically said "Give me your residence permit, and what I am doing at the bus station?". I couldn't believe it and couldn't just give my residence permit to some random guy, so I kept asking who is he and what does he want (at some distance from him), he only kept repeating he is from police and needs my residence permit (but I already heard plenty of stories about criminals pretending to be police to rob you), good at least later the usual police car full of cops arrived in uniform and for sure my basic self-preserving instincts were interpreted as I was a resistant criminal who has to be fully searched, and I got the full procedure, all documents were taken from me to be checked at the gym, phone taken from me immediately, all personal details written down, all my jewelry written down and constant questions "if it belongs to me", lasted for an hour or so, the entire situation I felt like a helpless person stripped from my bag and documents with 5 cops exercising on me what they have learned at their school. Only after that situation I realized in what country I am and how helpless you are even if you didn't do anything (may be the guys are more immune to such things, but for me it was a real shock). Since then I avoid even any eye contact with them, because my entire life mentality of a usual white female, who never has any troubles, quickly evaporated here, and especially after I started to drive here, this is when even more searches happen and more troubles start. The best is to avoid at maximum any intersection with them, but when a search does happen there is no point in claiming any rights and it is better not to resist anything.



Did he have a big truncheon in his hand too ?
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Old 30.01.2019, 12:00
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Re: Police powers

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Did he have a big truncheon in his hand too ?
How many replies to the same post are you going to write? It seems like stalking to me.

People have different experiences with police here. Let them express their point of view too.
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Old 20.01.2019, 17:50
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Re: Police powers

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...in usual skoda car...


The police cars are by far not "usual". If you know the details, they might as well write POLICE all over them:
  • On the roof in the back there's a small extra antenna, needed for their radio frequencies. Looks very specific.
  • In most cases these cars have tinted back windows.
  • It's always 2 police officers sitting in one car. See a car with 1 person = not police (or not in patrol mode)
  • Thanks to the Kantönligeist, the numberplate must be from the Kanton in which you are in that very moment. See an AG car in ZH = not police (or not in patrol mode)
  • the alarm lights integrated in the front grill are somewhat visible, even when they're not switched on.
In most cases I realise unmarked cars without paying attention. But if a car stops and wants something from you, above criteria will help you determine what the story is.


If you're unsure, why not call the emergency number and tell them what's happening, ideally including the numberplate.




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...and constant questions...
You should know your rights, at least the rough overview.


If a police officer is reasonable, reply reasonably. Imagine they search for someone, and accidentally your clothes match the description. Then I´d try to "help" them as quickly as I can, by diffusing their impression that I could be the one they're looking for.



But as soon as they start accusing you of anything, that's it. Don't talk. The only thing you are obliged to actively do is: Give your details (name, address, nationality) and state that you live in Switzerland legally. Nothing more; just say "I won't say anything more than this".



Yes, they can arrest you. But you don't have to cooperate in any way, and they don't want to waste their time. If a police officer keeps arresting innocent people, he will eventually lose his job for incompetence. It doesn't happen often.


In short:
  • cooperate as long as you feel comfortable.
  • As soon as you do not feel comforatble, say just that: I'm not comfortable talking to you, hence I´m not going to say anything from now.
  • Ignore any threats they make. Police can't do anything, except reporting you to the courts.
  • In the end a court decides about any real measures, the police guy on the spot can't take decisions, except the immediate one if they'll take you to the post with them or not.
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Old 16.01.2019, 09:42
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Re: Police powers

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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.......
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