1 Feb, 2017 @ 15:00
1 min read

Spain’s police forces: Understanding which does what

malaga police

malaga policeSPAIN’S federalization process has added layers and layers of bureaucracy to everyday living.

Currently, there are around 100,000 different laws, norms, decrees, statutes or ordinances and within them, 67,000 belong to the 17 regional communities.

Something similar, albeit on a manageable scale, happens with the diverse police forces; these organizations do not operate in the same areas and it is not altogether clear which one does what in the different regions of Spain.

There is Guardia Civil (of military nature), in charge of road traffic, arms and explosives, policing the coasts/territorial waters and drug smuggling therein, and environmental crimes.

The National Police (civil) deal with drug trafficking, organized financial crime, border controls and issuance of identity cards and passports.

In some areas of Spain, there are also regional police (“Mossos” in Catalonia or “Ertzaintza” in the Basque Country) and locally, Local Police patrol the towns and cities.

But this distribution is far from being clear cut and overlapping of functions is rife.

Here are a few examples: A few months ago, in Ceuta, a verbal public dispute erupted between the Lieutenant Colonel of the Guardia and the Chief of the National Police with both accusing each other of “trespassing” their duties.

It has also transpired that the case of the American pilgrim murdered in the “Camino de Santiago”, in 2015, could have been resolved months before had it not been for a local rivalry between the two main forces.

In the Basque country (2014), two dangerous criminals were freed after being detained for robbery despite having outstanding warrants for their imprisonment.

In Tenerife, following an argument on who was in charge members of the Local and National Polices almost came to blows at a fire scene.

And in Malaga, the investigation of domestic violence cases has been transferred from the local to the National Police and Guardia Civil, much to the anger of the former.

In some areas, the difference polices “join forces” in a most bizarre way: in a municipality in Asturias, Local Police will deal with surveillance and road traffic during the day, and the Guardia Civil at night.

Finally, to add more confusions emergency numbers also vary: There is 062 (Guardia Civil), 091 (National police) and 092 (Local Police) although the generic 112 is now the most widely used: a bit of common sense, at last.  

Antonio Flores (Columnist)

Lawyer Antonio Flores is the legal columnist for the Olive Press. Antonio has been practising law since 1997, year in which he began working for a large law firm in Marbella as a Property Lawyer. In 1998 he left the company he had joined a few months earlier, and used his knowledge and the experience gained to build his own practice. He is known throughout the community as independent, reputable and trustworthy. Through a combination of strong work ethics, determination and international exposure, his competence of Spanish Law is unparalleled and demonstrated through his fluency in English and Spanish.


  1. And yet they are the ones who have to arrest all the British criminals hidden in the Costa del Sol.
    It seems the British police is totally unable to detain their own criminals in their own territory

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Attack   e
Previous Story

YOU WILL PAY: Local Granada mayor to savages who executed British expat’s rescue dogs

kurdi e
Next Story

Protests erupt after ‘Spain’s Alan Kurdi’ washes up on beach in southern Spain

Latest from Antonio Flores: Legal Problems

Go toTop

More From The Olive Press