Germany's Bavarian State Police Divers

By Weiss, Jim; Davis, Mickey | Law & Order, March 2004 | Go to article overview
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Germany's Bavarian State Police Divers

Weiss, Jim, Davis, Mickey, Law & Order

Bavaria is Germany's largest federal state, much like Texas is in the continental USA. And it has its share of rivers and lakes. When the services of the Bavarian State Police are needed to go into the deep, the divers of the state police respond to that summons. Police diver missions include: helping at accidents or catastrophes; rescuing people in danger; searching for evidence and bodies; searching for explosive devices; and providing VIP security by checking water craft, canals, locks, water landings and other concerns.

The officers of each state's police force perform the policing concerns of Germany's 16 federal states. After the German police reforms of the 1970s, separate city and county police forces do not exist. Each state's police force is run independently of the country's other state police forces; national control over the police forces of the federal states is strictly limited by the German constitution.

Police in the independently governed states have concurrent jurisdiction with the German border police, Bundesgrenzschutz (BGS). By following strict guidelines, the various state police forces and the federal border police can act in support of each other, giving mutual aid. (Bavaria is the only German federal state to have its own border police, independent of BGS.)

Bavaria also has its own police divers, but if there is a huge natural or other disaster, or for a large-scale anti-criminal enforcement operation, the Bavarian police command can call upon the support of the dive teams of the other states' police, as well as the border police assistance. At a local level, some large Bavarian city fire departments like those of Furth, Nuremberg and Munich have rescue divers who can be called out to work in partnership with the state police.

However, if the police use a fire department's divers, their expenses must come out of the state's police budget. Often the best option is for the police to call upon the divers attached to the various Bereitschaftspolizei (Bepo). These are separate readiness police forces quartered at the police barracks whose command structure is within and part of the Bavarian State Police.

Bepo police formations are made up of very young officers, usually just out of the police academies. There are also specialized Bepo units, such as police divers. Bepo's primary functions are to train recruits, and to support and augment the regular federal states' police forces. In addition, as part of their duties, they are trained as a readiness resource to deal with riots, crowd control and natural disasters- earning them the nickname riot police.

Since the 1956 founding of Bepo, there have been police divers with the Bavarian State Police. (Police divers do not exist under any other wing of the Bavarian State Police command structure, not even the Water Police, a specialized waterborne command.) In those post World War II times, there was an immediate need for the police to have their own divers because private organizations were not available to be contracted or called upon to do such work as going into the water and searching for evidence. Also, at the time, the infrastructure available to call upon other government agencies for diver support was considerably smaller.

To guarantee a quick response to call-outs for police diver services, divers in Bavaria are stationed at Bepo barracks in Munich, Dachau, Nuremberg and Wurzburg. Special dive team equipment, such as underwater video cameras and onboard boat sonar, are available.

Training of Police Divers

All Bavarian police divers are graduates of a two- to three-year-long, basic state police (Bepo) academy training. Those police members of Bepo who wish to become divers must possess the traits of idealism and courage, be in good physical condition, and pass a physical examination and background check. His final examinations are conducted at a civil engineering professional association.

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