National police register to centralise data

Police would be able to check whether an individual is registered somewhere in the country Keystone

The Swiss government has announced it wants to create a national police register to help speed up investigations throughout the country.

This content was published on March 4, 2005 - 16:20

The register would allow law enforcement officers to find out quickly if a person’s name or personal details has been recorded in databases elsewhere.

Police face a number of hurdles at the moment when they wish to obtain information about a person. They have to submit individual requests to each of the country’s 26 cantonal police forces as well as the federal authorities.

With a central register, a single request would be enough to know exactly who has information about a person, said the justice and police ministry on Friday.

The government hopes this will simplify and speed up investigations. The register should also help reinforce collaboration between Swiss police and foreign law enforcement agencies.

But the success of the project will depend on the number of cantons participating, because they decide whether or not to hook up with the register.

The central record is part of a draft law on police information systems. The legislation would regulate three federal databases that are not linked and whose use is currently defined by separate laws.

Different databases

The three databases all have specific tasks. The federal criminal police’s database, Janus, contains all the information relevant to international and organised crime.

The Federal Police Office’s Ipas system manages all the exchanges with Interpol as well as identification data such as fingerprints and DNA profiles.

The federal authorities and the cantons manage the third database, Ripol. It handles information such as details about wanted individuals and measures taken against foreigners.

For each of these information systems, the draft law defines the type of data that can be stored, how they can be processed as well what they can be used for.

The planned legislation also defines who will have access to the information and if individuals will have the right to know if they have been registered.

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In brief

Switzerland’s police are split between federal and cantonal forces.

One of the biggest problems for police cooperation in Switzerland is the lack of centralised information.

Each canton manages its own law enforcement databases, but this information is not automatically shared with other cantons or the federal authorities.

On top of this, there are three separate national databases used for law enforcement.

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