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Germany

Germany considers a more centralized police force for modern age

A panel of experts commissioned by Germany's interior minister has recommended merging the county's two main policing arms. Berlin seems keen on the idea.

A heavily armed policeman patrols Hamburg Airport

Germany's police agencies currently act a little like lone wolves

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is reportedly planning to revolutionize the country's police force, in a bid to better manage modern dangers like terror threats.

On Thursday, a panel of experts commissioned by de Maiziere presented their final report to parliament in Berlin, suggesting that some kind of merger of the country's two main policing bodies would help law enforcers respond to terror threats and other 21st century issues.

"To me, the principal suggestion of creating one 'Federal Police' out of the Federation's police forces seems convincing and worthy of consideration and pursuit," Interior Minister de Maiziere said in response to the report.

Currently, the Federal Police (Bundespolizei) fulfils the more traditional policing role - patrolling beats, dealing with public safety, minor crimes, traffic accidents and so forth - while the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt or BKA) investigates more serious crimes.

Newspaper reports, attributing their information to participants of a recent high-level meeting between the interior ministry and the expert commission, say that merging elements of these forces would help the police to better deal with problems like terror threats - which require a combination of centralized intelligence and rapid local response.

Germany has been on a heightened terror alert for several weeks, and this is not likely to change before Christmas.

No German FBI

The commission said a new security force would not be comparable to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the US, as the German constitution clearly seperates police duties on a federal and state level.

According to the Koelner Stadtanzeiger daily, the two organizations would not have to move, the BKA would keep its HQ in Wiesbaden, and the Bundespolizei would stay in Potsdam.

Interior Minister de Maiziere also insisted that any changes would not be part of a downsizing scheme.

"The goal here, however, is definitely not to cut jobs," de Maiziere said.

An FBI agent

The potential merger might be inspired by the FBI in the US

The newspaper posits that the BKA would be responsible for serious and slightly serious crimes, while the Bundespolizei would focus on protecting the public.

The commission report argues that the third main arm of German police, the customs and border control service (Zollkriminalamt), should remain an independent entity. However, the report also recommended that customs officers with a role similar to that of a police officer should coordinate more closely with the German police force, and should fall under the jurisdiction of the interior ministry.

Similarly, the Federal Office for Information Security - Germany's "Internet police" – should work in closer conjunction with the BKA.

Reform by 2013?

"If we go ahead with this, then I would call for us to begin organizing the changes swiftly, even during the current legislative period," de Maiziere told the German parliament.

According to reports in the German press, if a draft law moved smoothly through the houses of parliament, a final bill might be ready by the end of the 2012 legislature period, and implemented the following year.

The investigative commission was chaired by Eckhart Wertebach, the former president of Germany's Constitutional Protection Committee.

Currently, roughly 5,500 people work for the major crimes unit, the BKA, and the Federal Police force employs around 40,000 people.

Author: Mark Hallam (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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