Jules Hoch joined the Liechtenstein National Police as a career changer. In this interview, the Police Chief talks about the shortage of policewomen, the most common crimes and why Liechtenstein is one of the world's safest countries.
Mr Hoch, many boys dream about becoming a police officer. How was it in your particular case?
I was fascinated by the work of the National Police, even at an early age. Despite this, I was a lateral entrant to the National Police.
How did this come about?
I studied social sciences at university, and one of my specialist areas was the penal system. I also wanted to work in this field, but never realised this ambition. For this reason I decided to establish myself in the field of psychosocial consultancy. In addition, I completed further studies into the management of non-profit organisations. The National Police was reorganised in 1999. The aim was to refocus and restructure the authority. I saw this as a unique opportunity, and successfully applied for the position of Head of the Criminal Investigation Department.
Why apart from a few exceptions are only Liechtenstein citizens permitted to work for the National Police?
Sovereign functions, such as for example police duties, are normally exercised by Liechtenstein citizens. In the wake of the financial crisis in the year 2000, we were obliged to recruit a number of external specialists at short notice. The Liechtenstein Police Act was amended accordingly. It is now possible in exceptional cases, for example in the case of special police experts, to waive the Liechtenstein citizenship requirement. This has to be approved, though, by the Parliament of the Principality of Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein is considered one of the safest countries. Are fewer offences committed in the Principality than in other states?
The rural structure plays an important role; we do not have any urban conurbations, and the population keeps a close eye on what goes on. This all has a positive impact on national security, as well as on the quality of life.
What are the most common crimes?
These include theft, property damage and burglary, as well as criminal assault. A homicide is committed every three to four years. Minor drug offences also occur. We do not have any significant criminal structures in these areas, however. Another focus of police investigations is in the field of white-collar crime. Liechtenstein is a financial centre, and fraud and money laundering are rigorously prosecuted. Major international cases also regularly occur in this field.
Is crime generally on the rise or decreasing in Liechtenstein?
Recorded crime has remained within a certain bandwidth over the past ten years. More cases may occur in one year, and then fewer in the next. No clear trend is apparent in one direction or the other.
What role does cross-border cooperation play for the National Police?
We have a police cooperation treaty with Switzerland and Austria, facilitating close cross-border cooperation. This cooperation is very important, not least because we are members of various panels and maintain a professional network. This ensures that the exchange of information and practical police cooperation works effectively in an emergency.
Is the police force still a male profession?
In neighbouring countries, many women now work for the police. But not in Liechtenstein. This is a shame. We have in the past launched various measures to attract more women to the police force. Their skills and abilities would be hugely valuable to all aspects of policing.
What abilities do today's police officers need to have?
Police officers must be physically fit, and also need good social and communicative skills. In addition, they also need a logical mind and must have good writing skills. This is because all police activities need to be recorded in writing. These reports can be very extensive, particularly in the case of complex offences.
The training is relatively short.
The practical side of the basic training takes one year to complete. Here too, we make use of cooperation. In this conjunction, we arrange for our police officers to undergo training at the Police Academy in Amriswil, Switzerland. Successful graduates are then assigned to experienced police officers. The overall induction and in-work further training takes several years to complete.
What are your wishes for the National Police?
The National Police is responsible for the security of the inhabitants of Liechtenstein. This means responding in good time to developments in our own society, as well as at the European and international level, and initiating the necessary measures. I hope that this can continue to be achieved, even under the current difficult political and security situation in today's world.
About Jules Hoch
Jules Hoch, born 1963, graduated in social sciences before working in this field. In 1999 he joined the National Police and was appointed Head of the Criminal Investigation Department. In 2013 the Liechtenstein government appointed him to the position of Police Chief. The 53-year old is married and has three adult children. In his free time he enjoys the natural environment while pursuing sports or hiking with his dog.
Interview: Silke Knöbl