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BKA Liaison Officers Abroad

History and Philosophy of the Liaison Officer System

The secondment of liaison officers dates back to the Federal Government's programme of action for the suppression of drug abuse and to the source-country strategy developed in this connection, a strategy that aims at initiating drug suppression efforts in the source and transit countries.

The main objective of this strategy is to prevent drugs from being smuggled into Europe - especially the Federal Republic of Germany - by already intercepting them in the source country and by neutralizing the organizers and drug trafficking rings at the same time. This strategy, which was initially developed for the purpose of drug crime suppression, can, of course, be applied to many other fields of crime.

The function profile of the BKA liaison officers has been adapted over and over in the course of time. This is also reflected in the change which the liaison officer titles have undergone. The drugs liaison officer's task area was expanded to become the drugs-/OC liaison officer, the terrorism-/state security liaison officer or the general liaison officer. Against the background of a heightened crime strategic task orientation, the area of competence of the Bundeskriminalamt liaison officers inevitably had to be expanded. Logically, the designations used to differentiate between these different tasks have now been eliminated, and the designation "BKA liaison officer" has been employed since May 1998.

Secondment Concept

When the first Bundeskriminalamt drugs liaison officer took up his post in Bangkok, Thailand, on 12 April 1983 it was still not be foreseen that the number of liaison officers would increase beyond 60 in the course of the following 25 years. Apart from the success of this strategic suppression instrument, it is mainly the political changes in East Europe at the end of the 80's and beginning of the 90's and the need for co-operation that developed from this between the German law enforcement agencies and their new partner countries which is responsible for the enormous increase in the number of liaison officers seconded.

Currently 66 BKA liaison officers fill posts at 53 locations in 50 countries at German diplomatic representations abroad. By comparison, Germany is thus at the fore in Europe.

Besides prioritisation, the number of officers seconded and the high costs require constant efficiency control. In the past, the consequence of this was, for example, that offices were closed down, relocated or double staffed. The events of 11 September 2001 are an example of the consequences that have affected not only in a direct way the setting up of additional locations but also in an indirect way the priorisation and weighting of the liaison officers' duties.

The Professional and Personal Qualification Profile for a Liaison Officer

For the post of liaison officer of the Bundeskriminalamt, law enforcement officers at senior or higher career level (if this is a prerequisite of the post) can apply who, at the time of secondment, are permanent civil servants and have at least had their first promotion.

Qualifications required of the applicants are the ability to become quickly and extensively familiar with complex and difficult facts, knowledge of at least one Interpol working language which can be expanded upon, willingness to learn the language of the host country, readiness to relocate to the respective host country and the unrestricted suitability for a security-sensitive activity in accordance with section 9 of the Security Screening Act. Physical (where applicable, tropical) fitness is an essential prerequisite. This also applies for family members who are accompanying the liaison officer.

Besides physical and psychological resilience, the applicant should also demonstrate a high level of communication skills, ability to negotiate, a sharp power of discrimination, a good all-round education, well-developed oral and written skills, good manners, especially in consideration of international diplomatic practices, and a well-groomed physical appearance. In addition, the preparedness or ability to be responsive to different conditions in foreign cultures, - especially when dealing with authorities - as well as character suitability and personal background are important.

Tasks of the Liaison Officer

The liaison officers have a preventive and repressive mandate. They are active in both initiating and supporting investigations. Their clarification and support activity, their information gathering and analysis and other investigation-related activities are generally oriented towards concrete, case-specific facts which are of relevance for the police. They are furthermore responsible for the strategic and tactical observation of the crime situation in the host country and/or the region, including the measures for crime suppression, in particular, internationally organised crime. The liaison officers do not perform any activities of a sovereign nature in the host country and, in the course of performing their duty, are obliged to observe international law, the law of the host country as well as the agreements concluded with the host country. They represent the interests of the German police, - in particular, those of the BKA - and support other German law enforcement bodies.

Tasks of a Fundamental Nature

  • Information gathering and exchange - primarily in support of German investigative proceedings
  • Assistance and support for German officers during official trips to the host country in matters revolving around the police information exchange and the execution of international requests for legal assistance from the police authorities.
  • Interaction in search cases and police requests for legal assistance matters.
  • Presence during interviews of suspects and witnesses, searches and other investigative measures.
  • Analysis of documents discovered or handed over
  • Support of the host country agencies responsible for the suppression of the respective crime areas in their own investigative proceedings with a link to the Federal Republic of Germany.
  • Providing general guidance to the security authorities of the countries mentioned in matters of crime suppression
  • Participation in conferences and expert meetings in the host country or the region they are responsible for.
  • Advice from German and, where appropriate, foreign diplomatic missions on crime suppression measures e. g. modi operandi surrounding illegal entry.

Tasks of a Special Nature

Within the context of the co-operation between the member states of the European Union the liaison officers, who have been deployed to countries outside of the European Union, can be enlisted by the EU member states if these do not have their own liaison officers representing them there.

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