Swiss police: Which canton has the largest force per capita?

Swiss police: Which canton has the largest force per capita?

New data released by the Conference of Cantonal Police Commanders (KKPKS) has revealed which Swiss cantons have the largest and smallest police presence. While the strength of the police in Switzerland is very low in comparison to other nations in Europe, numbers vary hugely by region.

Swiss police service smaller than most of Europe

According to the report, there are currently 214 police officers per 100.000 people in Switzerland. This puts the country 31st out of 34 in Europe, with only Denmark, Iceland and Finland having fewer per capita - Finland only has 135,5 officers per 100.000 people.

This puts Switzerland below the number of police officers recommended by the United Nations, which recommends 300 officers per 100.000. It also puts the country far off the top of the list, which was occupied by Montenegro with 708,2 officers for every 100.000 people.

This means that Switzerland needs approximately 27.000 officers in order to abide by UN guidelines. Currently, the KKPKS estimates that there are 25.300 cantonal and city police in the country at the moment, of whom only 18.800 are able to use police powers.

Ticino has the strongest police force in Switzerland

Canton Ticino was found to have the largest police force as a share of its population at 327 officers per 100.000 inhabitants. The KKPKS found that there is one officer for every 305 people in the Italian-speaking canton, much less than the Swiss average of 466.

By contrast, Canton Aargau has the smallest police force by head of population, with the canton having just 136 officers per 100.000 people. This means there is only one officer for every 735 residents.

The Swiss cantons with the largest and smallest police presence

Here are the top 10 most numerous police forces in Switzerland (in number of residents per police officer):

  1. Ticino (305)
  2. Basel-Stadt (326)
  3. Geneva (340)
  4. Zurich (399)
  5. Graubünden (410)
  6. Uri (431)
  7. Vaud (433)
  8. Neuchâtel (410)
  9. Jura (475)
  10. Zug (508)

The bottom 10 read as follows:

  1. Aargau (735)
  2. Obwalden (703)
  3. Thurgau (690)
  4. Schwyz (664)
  5. Nidwalden (649)
  6. Appenzell Ausserrhoden (632)
  7. Lucerne (615)
  8. Solothurn (608)
  9. Fribourg (593)
  10. St. Gallen (577)

Watson noted that cantons where the emergency services have more responsibilities (such as airports, larger public transport networks and sports stadiums, among others) tended to have larger police forces. However, the differences between the cantons remain dramatic, with most well below UN-recommended staffing levels for policing.

Swiss police union sounds alarm on staff shortages

This shortage of workers was highlighted by the Association of Swiss Police Officers, who said in a statement on November 8 that thousands of jobs in the force remain unfilled. According to them, many are put off from becoming a police officer due to high working hours and comparatively low salaries. They called on the government to invest more money into boosting police numbers and making the job more attractive to new recruits.

Vaud police commander Sylvie Bula proposed that the force could use part-time or hybrid work to become more attractive to young people. She also said that there remains a stigma around the police: “Many are leaving the profession, and more and more are dropping out of training. Young people don't want to represent this kind of authority because they associate the police with a conservative attitude", she told SRF.

Thumb image credit: NeydtStock /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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