Spezialeinsatzkommandos (SEK) (previously also known as Sondereinsatzkommando) are the special response units of the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 state police
thumb|[[Germany|German]] police officer in [[Hamburg]]The Landespolizei are the main police forces of Germany. They are under the sole jurisdiction, funded and operated by the states of Germany.-History:...

 forces. German SEKs are full-time units whose members do not perform any other duties, and are essentially the equivalent of American SWAT
A SWAT team is an elite tactical unit in various national law enforcement departments. They are trained to perform high-risk operations that fall outside of the abilities of regular officers...

 Teams. The comparable unit of the German Federal Police
German Federal Police
The Bundespolizei is a uniformed federal police force in Germany. It is subordinate to the Federal Ministry of the Interior...

 is the GSG 9
The GSG 9 der Bundespolizei , is the elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit of the German Federal Police.-History and name:...



The organization of special police forces varies from state to state. Whilst most states have created one SEK in their capital city, have others taken regional crime focuses into account and established SEK units in major cities known as hotspots for violent crime, such as the North Rhine-Westphalia Police
North Rhine-Westphalia Police
The North Rhine-Westphalia Police Force is the biggest of the 16 German state police forces because almost a quarter of the German population lives in NRW. Roughly 50,000 officers police about 19 million people.-Constabularies:...

 or Rheinland-Pfalz State Police
Rheinland-Pfalz State Police
Rhineland-Palatinate Police numbers approx. 9,000 police officers. The five regional police authorities are headquartered in Koblenz, Trier, Mainz, Kaiserslautern and Ludwigshafen ....

. The Bavarian State Police
Bavarian State Police
The Bavarian State Police has approximately 32,000 officers and roughly 5,600 civilian employees and is therefore one of the biggest police forces in Germany.-Organisation:The 10 regional police authorities in Bavaria are:...

 and Hessen State Police have two SEKs each, one covering the north and one covering the south of the state. A SEK unit can be attached to the (barracked) Rapid Reaction Police
The Bereitschaftspolizei are the support and rapid reaction units of Germany's police forces...

or to big regional police headquarters. However, the common trend is to put the SEK units under control of the State Investigation Bureau
Landeskriminalamt - is the German term for a State Investigation Bureau in Germany. LKAs are part of the state police which, in turn, is directly subordinate to the respective state ministry of the interior.-Investigations:...

, whenever possible in a unit also consisting of the Mobiles Einsatzkommando (MEK, mobile special response unit) or other specialized forces like crisis negotiation teams.

The internal organisation of SEKs rests with the units and therefore differs as well.

The SEK of South Bavaria has an alpine
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 component and the SEK units of Bremen
The City Municipality of Bremen is a Hanseatic city in northwestern Germany. A commercial and industrial city with a major port on the river Weser, Bremen is part of the Bremen-Oldenburg metropolitan area . Bremen is the second most populous city in North Germany and tenth in Germany.Bremen is...

 and Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 have elements trained for maritime tasks. Some SEKs also have specialized negotiation groups (Verhandlungsgruppen, commonly abbreviated as VGs) for cases like hostage situations or suicide attempts.

Eligibility and training

Any state police officer is eligible to apply for service in an SEK but it is common only to consider applications from officers with at least two years of duty experience. The age limit is mostly between 23 and 35 years, whilst operatives have to leave the entry teams when they reach the age of 42 (or 45 in some states). Both sexes can be recruited, however only a few policewomen have been able to handle the extensive and challenging tests. At the moment, only the SEK units of Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 (note: the SEK-equivalent unit in Hamburg is also called MEK), Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost of the sixteen states of Germany, comprising most of the historical duchy of Holstein and the southern part of the former Duchy of Schleswig...

 and Southern Hesse
Hesse or Hessia is both a cultural region of Germany and the name of an individual German state.* The cultural region of Hesse includes both the State of Hesse and the area known as Rhenish Hesse in the neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate state...

 have women in their ranks.

Basically the requirements demand physical and mental strength, discernment and capacity for teamwork. Only about 30 percent of all candidates pass the tests. The length of the training necessary to become an operative in a SEK unit differs but is generally five to eight months long and covers a wide range of required skills.


Mainly unrecognized by the media and public, the main missions of SEK units are to serve arrest warrant
Arrest warrant
An arrest warrant is a warrant issued by and on behalf of the state, which authorizes the arrest and detention of an individual.-Canada:Arrest warrants are issued by a judge or justice of the peace under the Criminal Code of Canada....

s and to deal with barricaded suspects. Hostage sieges, kidnappings and raids also belong to their missions as well as other scenarios like personal security detail for VIPs or witnesses.

Since the 1970s, each SEK has handled several thousand deployments. The front-runner is the SEK of the Berlin Police with up to 500 deployments a year, an average of 1.4 deployments a day.

Equipment and uniforms

Unlike other police institutions, SEKs are not bound to normal procurement policies and can order the equipment they feel is best for their mission. The basic gear for every officer is a standard sidearm and a submachine gun
Submachine gun
A submachine gun is an automatic carbine, designed to fire pistol cartridges. It combines the automatic fire of a machine gun with the cartridge of a pistol. The submachine gun was invented during World War I , but the apex of its use was during World War II when millions of the weapon type were...

, typically the Heckler & Koch MP5
Heckler & Koch MP5
The Heckler & Koch MP5 is a 9mm submachine gun of German design, developed in the 1960s by a team of engineers from the German small arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch GmbH of Oberndorf am Neckar....

. Other weapons in a unit's inventory include assault rifle
Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

s such as the Heckler & Koch G36
Heckler & Koch G36
The Heckler & Koch G36 is a 5.56×45mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1990s by Heckler & Koch in Germany as a replacement for the 7.62mm G3 battle rifle. It was accepted into service with the Bundeswehr in 1997, replacing the G3...

 or the Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n Steyr AUG
Steyr AUG
The AUG is an Austrian bullpup 5.56mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1970s by Steyr Mannlicher GmbH & Co KG . The AUG was adopted by the Austrian Army as the StG 77 in 1977, where it replaced the 7.62mm StG 58 automatic rifle...

 rifle, and shotgun
A shotgun is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug...

s of different manufacturers. The most common precision rifles
Sniper rifle
In military and law enforcement terminology, a sniper rifle is a precision-rifle used to ensure more accurate placement of bullets at longer ranges than other small arms. A typical sniper rifle is built for optimal levels of accuracy, fitted with a telescopic sight and chambered for a military...

 used are the Heckler & Koch PSG1
Heckler & Koch PSG1
The PSG1 is a semi-automatic rifle designed by the German company Heckler & Koch of Oberndorf am Neckar.-Development:...

 and bolt action rifles manufactured by Blaser
Blaser 93 Tactical
The Blaser LRS 2 and Blaser Tactical 2 are German sniper rifles, used by German and Dutch police forces as well as the Australian military and special police units. The rifles are manufactured by the German fire arms manufacturer Blaser. The LRS 2 and Tactical 2 rifles are straight-pull bolt-action...

, Unique Alpine and Accuracy International
Accuracy International
Accuracy International is a specialist British firearms manufacturer based in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England and best known for producing the Accuracy International Arctic Warfare series of precision sniper rifles...

. Some units also field specialized or heavy weapons such as the G8 machine gun or the French PGM Hecate II
PGM Hecate II
The Hecate II is the standard heavy sniper rifle of the French Army, sometimes known as the FR-12,7 .It is manufactured by PGM Précision of France...

 .50-caliber sniper rifle.

SEK members do not always operate in uniform and wear masks to protect their identities. If cited in a trial they are only referred to as numbers. When off-duty SEK officers are called to a crime scene, they may appear plainclothed, only wearing their special protective gear and carrying their weapons.


Mobile special response units (Mobile Einsatzkommandos or MEKs) operate hand-in-hand with the SEKs. These plain-clothed units are specialized in surveillance, quick arrests and mobile hostage sieges or kidnappings. They are often used in investigations against organized crime or blackmailers. The MEK is often also the unit providing close protection for the state's senior leaders, including the state's minister president. Requirements for the duty as a MEK officer are similar or partially less strict than the requirements for the SEK.

German Democratic Republic

The SEK units of the states that belonged to the German Democratic Republic
German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

 prior to 1990 do partially consist of officers who were members of East Germany's GSG 9 counterpart, a unit called Diensteinheit IX
Diensteinheit IX
The Diensteinheit IX was a special and covert counter-terrorism unit of the Government of the German Democratic Republic. It was also known as the 9...

. DE IX members had to fulfill similar requirements. Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski
Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski
Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski was a politician and trader in the German Democratic Republic. He was director of a main department in the Ministry for Foreign Trade and German Domestic Trade , the Deputy Minister for External Trade , and head of the GDR's Kommerzielle Koordinierung .He was born in...

, the regime's leading trader, purchased West German weapons and ammunition for DE IX in the mid-80s to fill capability gaps.

External links and references

Polizei.de Spezialeinsatzkommando (SEK) at Sondereinheiten.de Reinhard Scholzen: Spezialeinsatzkommandos der deutschen Polizei Motorbuchverlag, Stuttgart
Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

2006, ISBN 3-613-02016-5.
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