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Spain's Guardia Civil v The Policia Local

By Mr Grumpy - Fri 29th Oct 2010

I have always been puzzled by the number of different security forces / armies / police forces / whatever... in Spain.

My understanding (which granted, doesn't count for that much, so please correct me if I'm making a mess of things...) is that there are the following lines of 'Civil Defence' (apologies, I couldn't think of a better word) :

The Army - to protect the interests of Spain and it's people overseas.

The Guardia Civil - to protect the interest of Spain and it's citizens nationally.

The Policia National - Solving major crime, similar to the UK's CID.

The Policia Local Making tea for the local mayor, sweeping up and helping old ladies cross the road.

But of course, this is Spain, and where would the country be without a few exceptions to the rule here and there... my 'undertsanding' is far too simplified and easy to follow...

In Catalonia, the Polica National or the Guardia Civil do not have a presence and are instead replaced with their own Regional police force - The Mossos d'Esquadra, and similarly in the Basque Country they are replaced with The Erzaintza. - Why ? - to me the word 'Polica National' indicates that they have a National Presence. It would be more factually correct for them to call themselvs the 'Policia Most of Spain'.

Aside from my pedantry, the other questions and issues that puzzle and concern me mainly concern the Guardia Civil and the Polica Local :

*It is partly the Guardia's responsibilty to react to and tackle violent Crime, often working unsociable and long shifts at considerable danger to themselves. They also for the main part, have to live in barracks as a means of security - as past ETA bombings focussed on them proove. Being in the Guardia has historically been a 'job for life' and they are both highly trained and notoriously proud and dedicated to their jobs.

*As a comparison, the Polica Local's main responsibility seems to be to hover around the Town Hall for large parts of the day, helping school children cross the road and ignoring vehicles that have been parked irresponsiblly. This highly trained position also includes the need to carry a firearms, handcuffs and pepper-spray - just incase any of the school children step out of line on the Zebra-Crossing, or incase anyone makes a spelling mistake on their padron application. The hours, on the whole, seem to be 9-5pm unless their is a local Fiesta going on, in which case presents them with a nice opportunity to claim a bit of overtime.

But the amusing this is this - The Policia Local, in many areas of Spain, have a higher take-home pay than many Guardia officers. How can this be justified ?

Because the Guardia are considered to be part of the Army, they are not permitted to be part of a Union or to strike, which means that other being able to be part of an association, they have very little voice. Recent pension and salary cuts, together with longer working hours have been imposed on them on top of a number of official e mails being distributed advising them to save costs wherever possible. It was suggested that they did this by conserving fuel - IE patrolling the Motorways by parking up and observing wherever possible; Using Text messages instead of calling an Emergency through; just shooting drunk English toursists the once etc...

Understandably, they felt the need to make their feelings known, and this has resulted in what the Spanish press have called a 'Dropped ball point pen strike'. Basically, the government makes a massive revenue from the Motoring infraction fines imposed by the Guardia and recently they have been acting very leniently on motorists - letting many off with a caution, where previously a hefty fine would have been the result. The government have eventually noticed that there has been a significant drop in revenue being produced by this profit centre - sorry, Police force, and as such decided to act accordingly.

It would be too simple for the government to acknowldege that they may have been wrong and to 'unfreeze' the pensions and salaries, maybe review the working hours and conditions, maybe even to incentivise them into generating this revenue stream by offering them a pay-rise to bring them inline with the lollypop ladies (sorry, Polica Local) working in the same Town.

But no, the result has been to create a staggering 'points make prizes' scheme that offers monthly cash payments for each ticket awarded. Monthly cash bonuses of up to 400 Euros are being offered in a lot of cases. The system works something like this - Stopping a motorist for Speeding gets 3 Points; not wearing a seatbelt gets 2 points; defective tyres or lights gets 1 point; unsecure load gets 1 point.

I believe at the end of the month the Officers with the most points get to go infront of a live studio audience and are given the opportunity to catch a serial killer, which if succesful quadruples their points and wins them a small family hatchback and a family holiday in Bali.

(Of course, I'm joking - the holiday is only to the Canaries.)

It remains to be seen how the Guardia will be incentivised by this bonus/points system, if at all , or if the 'dropped ball-point pen' action will continue for the foreseeable future. I'm just off to cruise the mean streets at high speed, without wearing my seatbelt and with my headlights switched off and the drum & bass pumping from my stereo, because I might not have this opportunity for much longer ...

Comment on this Blog

Okay, now tell me what it is in Spanish! ¿Abajo bolis? ¿Bolígrafos fuera? ¿Bolis a la basura?
Mo - Tue, 28th Feb 2012
When I wrote this Blog ( Oct 2010 ) "Dropped Ballpoint Pen" was a phrase that the Spanish press was using to describe the "action" being taken by the Guardia. Essentially they were protesting over cuts to the service etc... etc... and were 'working to rule' and turning a blind eye to infractions that they should otherwise have been fining people for. After a few months the Gov't realised this and created an incentive system whereby Guardia officers were rewarded for the number of fines awarded !
Mr Grumpy - Tue, 28th Feb 2012
I´m probably going to kick myself but I have to ask what a "dropped ballpoint pen" action is.....
Mo - Tue, 28th Feb 2012
That's a very interesting and valid point you make there CoE, however I was really trying to draw a comparison between the Guardia and the Local Police who just seem to help children cross the road, hand out parking fines and very little else.
Mr Grumpy - Sat, 25th Feb 2012
Thats very interesting re the pay issue etc - my understanding on roles in the Policia Nacional (CNP) are responsible for policing (both uniform and CID type) in the big cities and the GC cover the countryside and smaller towns - the latter follows the Gendarmerie tradition thats common in European policing. There is a degree of overlap of course as well as joint task forces of GC and CNP detectives on organised crime etc...
Coe - Sat, 25th Feb 2012

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