Trouble and the police in Switzerland
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Compared to most Europeans, the Swiss are law-abiding to a fault, rendering even the minimal police presence superfluous. There’s only a small force of plain-clothes federal police (Polizei, police, polizia), since most police duties are managed by the cantonal authorities, all of which maintain uniformed, armed police. Towns and cities also have their own armed police, operating in conjunction with the cantonal force.

It’s very rare you’ll even see a police officer in Switzerland, although you may come across one or two directing the traffic. Nonetheless, Swiss police are nothing of a soft touch, and have drawn recent approbration from Amnesty International for their heavy-handed approach to foreigners, asylum seekers and Swiss citizens of non-European descent in particular, with random street searches and “unjustified use of violence” cited.

If you do come into contact with the police, they’ll want to see your passport, which you’re obliged to carry at all times. Ordinary traffic offences will be dealt with swiftly and courteously – as long as you pay the fine – although police officers, especially outside the cities, may not speak any English and so, should there be any disputes, they may insist you accompany them to the nearest police station to have all the necessaries explained. As across Europe, urban Switzerland has a serious hard-drug problem. All drugs are illegal, but curiously, drug laws are enforced less rigorously in the German-speaking cities than elsewhere: limited personal cannabis smoking in Bern and Zürich is usually ignored (except when there’s a blitz on), but anywhere else you can expect fines and major hassle. Possession of more than a joint or two’s worth of cannabis, or of any other drug at all, will land you in serious trouble, involving either prison or deportation plus a criminal record. Expect no sympathy from your embassy.

If you’re unfortunate enough to be robbed you should always go to the nearest police station to get a report filled out (you’ll need it for your insurance if nothing else). It may take hours to complete all the paperwork required.

Switzerland is heaven for indulging in sports and outdoorsiness of all kinds, and since the Swiss themselves are very active, this ensures that facilities abound in all areas of sport and exercise for literally all ages and abilities (the number of Swiss grandparents who spend their “declining years” hiking mountain trails is amazing). Safety is taken very seriously and standards are very high.

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