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Basel’s police celebrate – „We’ll keep on trying”

This spring the police of canton Basel-Stadt will be 200 years old – and during the celebrations the British rock band Queen will also play a small role.

By Shirley L. Kearney

With the passing of a directive by the Basel city parliament on 21June 1816, the foundation was laid to establish a police corps. With one officer and 21 men, it went into business in 1817. The size of the group remained as such until 1833 when the separation of Baselland from Basel city occurred. Until then, in order to visit the countryside, the office needed to rent a sleigh to begin his journey which often lasted several days.

Today, around 950 people are employed by the Basel-Stadt police department. They bring us 24-hour help, security and order, under ever-increasing demands. And Basel’s police force was a ground-breaker. Following a change in police law in 1996, Basel-Stadt became the first canton in Switzerland that did not require the members of its police force to be Swiss citizens. Since then, anybody with a C-permit can join as well. Other cantons followed (e.g. Geneva, Schwyz) – but to this day not the neighbouring canton of Baselland. However, for expats tempted by a career change, please bear in mind that being able to speak German is still a major requirement.

The jubilee celebration, a historic moment, opens on 19 March with a free police-music concert at the Stadt-Casino. Under the direction of Bernhard Winter, a colourful and varied musical journey will be played, with symphonic brass music, melodies from films, and highlights such as “Danza Sinfonica” by James Barnes and “Summon the Heroes” by John Williams. On the programme as well is the song “Innuendo” by the British rock band Queen. This seems to be an apt choice, as the refrain of this song begins with the line “We’ll keep on trying”, which could be taken as the unofficial motto of the Basel-Stadt police to keep the people living here safe. And not to be forgotten is the Wettstein March and the National Anthem. Tickets are available at Bider & Tanner.

Additionally, a book vernissage of the 200-year history is scheduled for 21 June.  And as a highlight of the celebrations, on 25 June a grandiose parade will take place. The inner-city, from the cathedral square, over the middle bridge to Claraplatz, offers the population a glance at the modern corps.

A new exhibit based on five themes opens at the Police Museum in the Spiegelhof www.polizeimuseum.ch. This museum seems to be a very well-kept secret, as on inquiring at the information desk at Spiegelhof it became obvious that the existence of such a museum was a revelation to the clerk. Among the items on display in this museum are also exhibits about Basel’s most violent crime: in January 1934 a bank was robbed and two employees and several police were killed. Once surrounded by police in Margarethenpark, the culprits shot themselves.

A guided tour through this museum is free, but needs to be booked six weeks in advance (in German only).



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