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The Police in Spain – Who they are and their Responsibilities

- Updated: 01/04/2013

It can be a little confusing to most newcomers to Spain, that there are three separate Police Forces that operate, with varying responsibilities.

The Police in Spain – Who they are and their Responsibilities

The Guardia Civil Wear green uniforms and were generally feared during Franco's era due to their far reaching influence and control. These days they are responsible for national security, customs and for crowd control at large events. Their traffic department vehicles patrol the main highways with green and white coloured cars and motorbikes and organise radar speeding checks. They are very pro-active in setting up roadside checkpoints to check various documentation, so don't be alarmed if you are stopped at any time of the day or night - But remember that this is all the more reason to have your paperwork in order and kept in your glove compartment.

The National Police Wear a black uniform and white shirts. Some officers may wear a blue military uniform and sometimes armed as their duties include guarding public buildings and personnel. They are responsible for most day to day crime investigation and it is to them that you should go to make denunica for any crime that you may be a victim of. If any of your possessions (Like Credit Cards or Passport) have been lost or stolen they can provide you with the necessary documentation to supply to your Bank and / or your Insurance company.

The Local Municipal Police Wear blue and white uniforms and are basically Town Hall Officials. Their main responsibilities include Parking violations, guarding the street crossings at School times and upholding the local Bye Laws (Like Building & Safety regulations) in the Municipal area. Although they too are armed, they are very approachable by residents and Tourists alike as they are essentially working in the Interests of the local community.

In your dealings with any of the above Police Agencies it is important to be Polite and try your best to speak whatever Spanish you can as this more often than not helps to show that you are not just another "Disagreeable Foreigner" that thinks that a misunderstanding of the Language, or ignorance of the law is enough to resolve any situation.

Comment on this Article

Well said, Alan. Very eloquent.
Paul Attard - Thu 28th Feb 2013
A couple of points, Paco. The police are heavily politicised, which is one of the great failings, but please don't compare today's national police forces with the bully boys of the dictatorship. Some members of both National Police and Mossos have at times acted as thugs, and have been caught in the act. There are rotten apples in ALL police forces,; it reflects well on a society when a rotten apple is kicked out, which hardly ever happens. I have had a few encounters with police officers in my 22 years in Spain, but I've been called "usted", received salutes, a couple of times a pat on the back and generally professional, courteous treatment. Perhaps the fact that I'm a foreigner affects this; I don't know for sure. And what is your problem with "Ertzaintza"? (Copy the name down from the website if it's too difficult for you.) Herri = people; tzaina = guardian/shepherd. Are you similarly antagonistic towards the Heddlu, an Garda Síochána, Rendörség and Ríkislögreglan?
Alan - Wed 27th Feb 2013
It took you 60 years to reach the crappy police forces you got now. If Spain was already badly organised when it comes to policing, it is now a bloody joke with the Mossos and the Basque police whose name is unwritable. They are even more violent and antidemocratic than any other Spanish police body
Paco Porras - Wed 27th Feb 2013
"In Catalonia there is no National Police and no Guardia Civil. We have Catalan Police, Mossos d'Esquadra. It took us 60 years to get rid of the Spanish police. The same is for the Basque country with the Erzaintza" Erzainta, yes, but the Guardia Civil are still here in Euzkadi.
Paul Attard - Tue 25th Oct 2011
Gus, I was pretty shocked when my neighbours, who are in the Guardia, told me about this aswell - Have a look at my blog- The Guardia Civil Vs Polica Local.

Mr Grumpy - Tue 23rd Nov 2010
Plus , according to my spanish neighbours, each force pays different salaries depending on the autonomous community. It's not a standard rate accross spain !
Gus-lopez - Sun 25th Jul 2010
In Catalonia there is no National Police and no Guardia Civil. We have Catalan Police, Mossos d'Esquadra. It took us 60 years to get rid of the Spanish police. The same is for the Basque country with the Erzaintza. They take care of the road traffic and crime.
Lluís - Thu 8th Jul 2010
Yet another example of the Regional autonomy and diversity in Spain. With regards to Catalonia, I expect that this will only become more so after the ruling made on 29th June, that they are now to be called and considered a 'Nation' as opposed to a region !
Tumbit - Admin - Mon 5th Jul 2010
Don't forget the autonomous police forces of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Navarra (Mossos d'Esquadra, Ertzaintza and Policia Foral respectively), which replace the National Police in these autonomous regions. In rural Alava there is a small historic police force known as the Mińones, now a division of the Ertzaintza. Easily identified by red uniforms, including caps and berets.
Alan - Sun 4th Jul 2010