The Landespolizei can trace its origins to 19th century Germany when the various German kingdoms maintained separate police forces, the two largest of which were the Prussian Secret Police and the Bavarian State Police. When Germany united into a single country, under Otto von Bismarck, the various Kingdom and other state level police agencies maintained their Landespolizei forces and various towns and cities also maintained separate police forces as the increasing number of new laws and regulations made controlling urban life more complicated.
After World War II, massive numbers of refugees and displaced persons, hunger and poverty characterised everyday life in Germany. Attacks by armed gangs, robbery, looting and black-marketing were commonplace and the military police could not cope with this troubling security situation. So each of the Western Allies quickly permitted the formation of civilian police forces in Western Germany under terms that reflected their own police structures and traditions. In all three Western zones, the emphasis was to decentralise, demilitarise and democratise the police. Some restrictions were lifted as Cold War tensions grew and certain police functions necessitated central rather than local direction. The Landespolizei became the police force for the federal states in the West.
All state police forces are subordinate to the Land Minister of the Interior. The internal structures of these police forces differ somewhat (which makes generalizations subject to local variation), but usually immediately subordinate to the interior ministries are the regional police headquarters (called Präsidium in most states, Landespolizeidirektion in Baden-Württemberg). These direct operations over a wide area or in a big city and have administrative and supervisory functions. The Präsidium often has direct control of the force’s specialist units such as highway patrols, mounted detachments and canine units. Under the regional headquarters, there are several district police headquarters (Direktionen) serving communities of from 200,000 to 600,000 citizens. Subordinate to each Direktion, there are several local stations (Inspektion) or precincts (Revier) that are manned on a 24-hour basis, conduct day-to-day policing and serve as points of contact for local citizens. Below this level, the Polizeiposten is a small police office manned by one or two officers, normally only during office hours.
The State Police wear the state patch on the uniform sleeve and sometimes metal city badges are worn over the right breast pocket indicating which police department they work for. Police officers can be transferred anywhere within their state.
State police forces are divided into the following operational sections:
The individual Länder and the Federal Police conduct basic police training for their personnel. The length and thoroughness of this training contributes in large degree to the high level of police professionalism in Germany. Teaching all aspects of police work takes time but supports a “uniform career structure” that aims to avoid premature specialization, lets officers think in broad terms, makes career field changes easier and improves promotion opportunities.
German citizenship is not required to be a police officer in Germany. Police departments in big cities are especially keen to recruit officers from ethnic minorities to reduce language and cultural barriers. However, minorities still make up less than one percent of officer numbers.
The Land police have had women members since the forces were reconstituted after World War II. Initially, female officers were only assigned to cases involving juveniles and women but in the mid-1970s they were allowed to become patrol officers. The proportion of women on patrol duty is set to rise as 40-50 percent of police school inductees are currently female.
Most police recruits are taken on directly after leaving school and spend about two and a half years at police school in combined classroom tuition and on-the-job training with police departments and the Bereitschaftspolizei. These people qualify as regular police officers and wear green (or light blue on the new blue uniforms) stars on their shoulder straps, denoting rank in the first echelon of the police service.
After duty as a patrol officer, someone with an outstanding record or wealth of experience can go on to two or three years at a higher police school or college of public administration to qualify for the upper echelon which starts with Polizeikommissar (one silver star) and ascends to Erster Polizeihauptkommissar (four or five silver stars). Direct entry candidates with the Abitur high school diploma can also take these courses. Some states such as Hessen now train all their police officers for the upper echelon to improve pay and promotion chances.
The very few candidates who qualify for the police service’s executive ranks study for one year at a state police academy and then for another at the German Police University (Deutsche Hochschule der Polizei – DHPol) in Münster-Hiltrup where graduates earn a masters degree in police administration. Direct-entry candidates with a university degree only study for six months at the DHPol. The executive echelon begins with Polizeirat (one gold star) and culminates with the Land chief of uniformed police (gold wreath with one to three stars) or Federal Police chief (gold wreath with four stars). The DHPol that the states and Federal Interior Ministry administer jointly also provides specialized vocational courses for senior police personnel.