Paul Whitelock has become a bit of an expert on the Spanish police lately. Since he and his wife moved house six months ago they’ve had more contact with the three Spanish equivalents of the Old Bill than Paul would have wished for! What with threatening behaviour, ABH, damage to property, animal cruelty, hygiene, noise pollution, removal of a dead horse and a lost passport, he reckons he knows more than most about the way this tripartite system operates
HAVING had more than our fair share of issues requiring police attention since we moved from our village to the campo six months ago, I think I now have a fair idea of how the sometimes confusing police system in Spain works.
Spain has three forces: the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía, run by the Ministry of the Interior (Home Office); the Guardia Civil, a force run on military lines; and the Policía Municipal or Local, responsible to the Town Hall.
The tall, fit, jackbooted criminal police wear dark blue uniforms and drive around in blue and white cars. Some of them are so young they look like sixth formers on work experience! Among other things they deal with crime, so for our issues relating to being threatened with violence, actual bodily harm and criminal damage to two cars and our garden gates, this was the police force we needed. Also when I lost my passport, I had to make the denuncia at the Comisaría de Policía.
Their official duties, as regulated by the Organic law 2/1986? of March 13, 1986 are:
- The issuing of identity documents – ID cards and passports;
- To control receipts and outgoings of the foreign people and Spaniards;
- Immigration law, refuge and asylum, extradition and expulsion;
- Gaming enforcement;
- Drug enforcement;
- Collaboration with Interpol and Europol;
- Control of private security companies;
- General law enforcement.
The green-clad civil guard has had something of a makeover since Franco’s day, when their officers were nothing short of the dictator’s brutal paramilitary stormtroopers. Nowadays, they are responsible for borders and rural areas. A specialist branch, Seprona, is responsible for the environment and animal welfare, so these were who we turned to when we needed assistance with an issue of severe animal cruelty locally. They also have a Tráfico section, responsible for rural roads.
Today, they are primarily responsible for policing and/or safety regarding the following areas:
- highway patrol,
- protection of the Royal Family and the King of Spain,
- military police
- counter-drugs operations,
- anti-smuggling operations,
- customs and ports of entry control,
- safety of prisons and safeguarding of prisoners,
- weapons licenses and arms control,
- security of border areas,
- bomb squad and explosives,
- security in rural areas
- coast guard,
- police deployments abroad (embassies);
- intelligence and counter-intelligence gathering,
- cyber- and internet crime;
- hunting permits and
- environmental law enforcement.
Policía Municipal / Local
This is the local police force, which seems to deal with everything else. From traffic control to parking, from noise pollution control to marshalling at public events, they are also responsible for attending incidents involving other emergency services, such as the Fire Brigade, Ambulance, Mountain Rescue, etc. They even read the electricity and water meters in the villages! I’ve seen them!
Officially, the Policía Municipal, which answers to and is paid for by the Town Hall, performs functions such as:
- Protecting local government authorities, and supervision or custody of their buildings and facilities;
- Managing urban traffic, in accordance with the rules of the road;
- Dealing with traffic accidents within the town;
- Enforcing ordinances, edicts and other municipal regulations;
- Participating in the functions of judicial police in the manner provided in Article 29.2 of the Act
- Providing assistance in cases of accident, disaster or public calamity, and the execution of civil protection plans.
- Carrying out preventive measures against criminal acts;
- Monitoring public spaces and working with the Forces of State Security and the national police to maintain public order in large concentrations of people, when required to do so;
- Assist in the resolution of private disputes when requested to do so.
So, all in all, with three forces, all with different roles and responsibilities, it can be pretty confusing for your average citizen, especially if he or she is a foreigner.
In an emergency and if in doubt it’s best to ring the emergency numbers as follows:
112 – police, fire, ambulance (999 equivalent)
091 – policía nacional
092 – policía local
062 – guardia civil
However, just a tip, we’ve discovered that if you ring the local number of the appropriate force rather than the emergency numbers, which go via Madrid or Málaga, the response may well be quicker.