Logo of the Autobahnpolizei
|Preceding agency||Police Grand-Ducale|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Primary governing body||Ministry of Internal Affairs|
|Secondary governing body||Groussherzogliche Polizei|
|Headquarters||Findel, Van Luxemburg|
|Parent agency||Groussherzogliche Polizei|
The Autobahnpolizei is perhaps the most well-known law enforcement unit in the Grand Duchy. Even though it’s operation territory is limited to A- and B-type motorways, it’s vehicles are the rolling advertisements for Van Luxemburgs’ ‘strong arm of the law’, and the unit even has its own intervention and arrestation team, that is often used, even outside the motorways of the nation. The Autobahnpolizei's officers are held in high regard for their driving skills, but also the natural authority that they have over Van Luxemburger citizens, more so than their 'regular' counterpart, the Kommunalpolizei.
The first ideas for a specific motorway police unit date back to 1925, when the first motorway was opened in Van Luxemburg. The idea was even supported by important figures from the automobile industry, such as Gilberto Monteluci of Automobili Monteluci. Due to the high costs of establishing such a service and the low amounts of traffic on the unlimited-speed motorways, this decision was postponed to 1950, when mass motorization meant that the motorways became busier and the police often had insufficient methods to enforce traffic laws on the motorways and other main roads. A traffic police unit, consistently named 'Police for Traffic Law Enforcement' was planned and received funding. The commanding officers of the Groussherzogliche Polizei decided on giving the command to a 26-year old Colonel of the Marechaussee, which had racing and technical experience. Colonel Kees Vogel was quick to instate a police department which used fast cars in a uniform black colour for transportation, that could catch any traffic perpetrator. Officers and other personnel were initially recruited from the Police Grand-Ducale, particularly those with automotive experience, but soon the reputation of the unit was sufficient for new employees to apply specifically for a position with the traffic police. Within a year, the 'Police for Traffic Law Enforcement' became an independent part of the Police Grand-Ducale, and was renamed 'Autobahnpolizei' by Colonel Vogel.
The initial fleet of the Autobahnpolizei consisted of Monteluci Tipo G Berlinas and Berlinettas, as well as Lepanto 290 Valsangrio sportscars, all kindly provided by Gianluca Monteluci, son of the company founder and a major supporter of the Autobahnpolizei concept. During the years to come, the core of the Autobahnpolizei's fleet consisted of Monteluci and Lepanto vehicles, complemented by various other vehicles from virtually any manufacturer. The unit also had its own technical division, which was renowned for the magical performance gains they could realise with the patrol cars, compared to the standard models.
By the 1970's, Van Luxemburg faced problems with drug runners on motorways, transporting illegal narcotics from one destination to another via the extensive system of motorways, mostly neglecting the existing traffic laws. Their aggressive behaviour meant that the Autobahnpolizei stepped up its actions against dangerous behaviour, and several changes in Van Luxemburger law allowed them to confiscate the vehicles of dangerous drivers, and even to draft these vehicles into the Autobahnpolizei. This practice of stripping the drug runners of their equipment was largely successful, and lead to an influx of powerful and fast cars for service with the traffic policing unit.
Due to the tolerance of 'safe' speeding and minor traffic offences, the Autobahnpolizei has maintained a very good reputation with the Van Luxemburger population. As the unit primarily focuses on combating motorway-related crime problems and the punishment of more serious traffic offences, it is often feared by criminals, especially due to the ruthlessness of the motorway police when it comes to handling criminals. Hooligans and rioters are often far more afraid of the Autobahnpolizei and the Marechaussee, than they are of the more common Kommunalpolizei. In law enforcement circles, it is often said that the motorway police has inherited the style of the old Police Grand-Ducale, when it comes to handling crime. Critics have often named the unit the 'Playboy-police' because of their fast cars and flamboyant behaviour, as well as a 'complete waste of funds' due to the fact their expensive cars serve little purposes beyond impressing the man in the street, according to the critics. The current commander of the Autobahnpolizei, Haaptkommissär Arno Vogel - a son of the founder of the unit - has renounced these criticisms as 'nonsense', as the vehicles cost little more than regular vehicles overall, and that his men and their vehicles have proven their value in keeping Van Luxemburg free of illegal narcotics and have managed to reduce the number of deaths on motorways and main roads.
A regular agent of the Autobahnpolizei will be travelling with his car or motorcycle. Even though the equipment of a motorcycle officer is adapted to his needs, the standard is still very much the same for both. A set of lockable steel handcuffs is provided, together with several plastic handcuffs in case more arrests should be made. A handheld transceiver with built-in encryption is used for communication with other units and the station. Furthermore, an employee of the Autobahnpolizei will have a weapons belt on which he can carry his holster with pistol (see below), a pepper spray can, a flashlight, a multitool and a pair of disposable latex gloves. Furthermore, he or she will receive a mobile phone for service use, in case calls to outside services should be made. A pair of tailored sunglasses especially suited to driving are also part of the standard equipment. Every employee receives a stab vest and a ballistic vest, even though the requirements to wear these vests are variable among the various regional Autobahnpolizei organisations.
The uniform of the Autobahnpolizei was designed by some famous Van Luxemburger fashion house in 1998, even though the dark blue colours and orange accents (added later, primarily for visibility reasons) have been part of the uniform ever since the founding of the unit in 1952. A blue jacket with dark orange accents, four buttons, two breast pockets and rank insignias, and trousers in the same colours are worn by every officer in the unit, with a blue dress shirt and an orange tie being worn underneath. The weapons belt, meant to store all equipment, is also coloured orange. The hat worn is also dark blue, and has the Grand-Ducal logo, as does any law enforcement officer in Van Luxemburg. On both the jacket and the dress shirt, the logo of the Autobahnpolizei, a Puma swiftly moving forward, has been represented. Even though the jacket is one of the methods to recognise an officer of the unit, the jacket is mostly left inside the vehicle. Motorcycle agents are often equipped with a leather motorbike suit in the same colours.
A pistol (Fiorentini PM250) is handed out to every member, and an officer is allowed to take this service weapon home, mostly for practical reasons. At home, it should be stored in a weapons locker, as would be done on the police station. An extendable baton is usually kept in the car, as is a single submachine gun, in some situations. As with the baton and submachine gun, the pistol also often remains in the car, in a special weapons locker. In the case of a motorcycle officer, the pistol and baton usually remain in tailor-made holsters on the belt, as there is little space on the motorbike itself to store such equipment.
The tactical police unit of the Autobahnpolizei, the Spezialkommando Autobahnpolizei (SKA), is usually equipped with submachine guns, shotguns and pistols of various types, even though some officers prefer the use of compact assault rifles, such as the military standard issue FAM-87c.
Even though the Autobahnpolizei has had a historical preference for Monteluci and Lepanto vehicles, the organisations uses dozens of different types from virtually any brand available in the Grand Duchy. The fact that each individual brigade is free to spend their money on vehicles adds to this diversity. The unit however still has an obvious preference for the Monteluci Duca, usually in Pantera trim, with the V8 engine that produces 400 horsepower as standard, but has been tuned in almost every instance. The Autobahnpolizei thus uses the Monteluci as it's four-door, 300 km/h+ backbone.
All Autobahnpolizei vehicles are in the uniform black and orange colours that have been with the unit since the 1970's. The orange stripe over the side was primarily added for visibility concerns, as the black vehicles were virtually impossible to spot at night; a dangerous problem when the police vehicles have to secure the site of an accident at night. Furthermore, the name of the unit, together with the local form, has been placed on either side of the vehicle, with the name of the locality below. The Autobahnpolizei's Puma has been represented on the driver door. A call sign and the national emergency number (112) is located on either side of the vehicle.
Blue LED's are used in gratuitous amounts in order to make the vehicle visible at night. Lightbars are usually produced by a domestic manufacturer, the most popular being Pabst Fire Technologies. Furthermore, amber LED's are also represented in these lightbars and in other parts of the vehicle, for use in less urgent situations, as well as white LEDs for illumination purposes. Every Van Luxemburger police vehicle is equipped with a two-tone siren that has a 'city' and a 'country' setting, the latter being louder in order to be heard from further away on quiet countryside roads. The electric siren box that can produce these sounds is also able to recreate a wail and yelp signal, even though these signals are not legally recognised and therefore have no legal status on the vehicle. A pneumatic two-tone horn is also available in all vehicles.
In order to stop other traffic, the Autobahnpolizei will often attempt to get in front of the vehicle in question, and then use the LED-matrix screen that is present on every vehicle to order the vehicle to stop. This LED-matrix can also display various other messages, or custom-made messages. Another possibility to stop vehicles is the traditional 'lollipop' sign, that is waved at the car in question.
Next to a range of marked vehicles, the Autobahnpolizei also operates a fleet of unmarked vehicles that are equipped in the same way as their marked brethren, but are almost impossible to distinguish from regular traffic. They are usually equipped with camera systems to record traffic offences. The vehicles are not equipped with standard police license plates, but have a range of different license plates which are changed every once in a while. The SKA teams are also often equipped with expensive saloon and estate cars to approach their targets unnoticed.
Responsibilities and Tasks
The Autobahnpolizei is primarily responsible for the security of motorways, but in practice also for regional and local roads that have a speed limit of over 100 km/h. The agency usually has small offices or stations at service areas, where one or sometimes two vehicles are stationed. Main stations are often located in larger cities, which are sometimes shared with the Kommunalpolizei. The officers of the Autobahnpolizei often patrol the motorway in teams of two. They offer assistance to motorists with technical problems, monitor traffic flow, but also look out for motorists breaking the laws of the Autobahn; however, speed is not so much an issue in limited sections of the motorways, as long as the driving style of the subject is considered safe. The newspaper Den Lètzebuerger revealed that the officers are far more likely to react to overtaking on the right than to speeding. The Autobahnpolizei also has the task of preventing and fighting the transport of illegal narcotics via the national motorway systems. To keep up with the fast drugsrunners, the Autobahnpolizei has a fleet of extremely fast high-speed interceptors.
Furthermore, the Autobahnpolizei is responsible for the safety in public transport vehicles, since a 1991 reform that transferred this task from the Kommunalpolizei to the Autobahnpolizei, supposedly because the latter had a beter infrastructure to deal with the interregional character of the Van Luxemburger public transport. Therefore, Autobahnpolizei officers can also be seen on trains or bus lines with an increased security risk. These officers are however usually referred to as NEB-polizei (after the national railways) or Transportpolizei. They however share the uniform and equipment with their colleagues in the Autobahnpolizei.