The Police in Spain
In the UK, it is generally easy to know who looks after the law and order of our streets and cities, crime, major criminal activity etc, as everything goes through THE POLICE. This is of course a little bit of a facade in the UK, as there are groups like the Serious Organised Crime squad, the MI5, CID, and other such law enforcement groups.
Here in Spain, things are actually not that different, but the Spanish authorities are perhaps a little more blatant about their portrayal of a police force, by means of an apparent disorganised and regional practice that sometimes causes confusion with foreign visitors to the country. In fact though, it is not that difficult to understand.
Basically, in Spain, we have 3 different law enforcement groups. The Policia National (National Police), Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) and Policia Munucipal or Policia Local (Local Police).
The National Police
Responsible for national law enforcement. If there is a big problem, such as major unrest, terrorist activities and the likes, it is the National Police that will take a lead. It is quite rare to see or meet National Police officers on the street during day to day activities, so you are unlikely to come accross any of their officers. That said, they do assist the Guardia Civil at times, when they need extra resources.
The uniform of the Policia National is BLACK, and usually includes full face coverage such as a baloclava or gas mask during their operations.
The Guardia Civil
They are commonly know as a corp, and operate out of barracks, much like a military group. They live, breath and sometimes die for the job. They were once known as Franco’s Police, as they had a reputation for being very strict.
The Guardia Civil deal in big crimes such as burglary, assault, robbery, smuggling, drug trafficking and also police the main road network in Spain, with their elite corp of Trafico (Traffic) officers, armed with a fleet of multui purpose vehicles such as motorbikes, helicopters , boats and more.
Policia Municipal / Local
Depending where you are in Spain, this group is called either Policia Municipal or Policia Local, or Municiple / Local Police. They are responsible for local crime and are usually first on the scene when a crime is reported. They often hand crimes over to the Guardia Civil, as it is not their place to deal with a lot of criminal activities, basically as they do not have the resources, nor the time. They really act as a first response, due to their locality, but also deal with local traffic offences, such as parking, and help the kids across the road at the end of school.
All police forces are armed in Spain, all officers carry hand guns, which they are prepared to use to defend themsaleves or the public if needed.
We also have a number of ‘private’ security companies, all regulated, who carry night sticks, handcuffs etc, and have the power of arrest. They provide security for shops, buildings, building sites etc and are generally not armed with guns.
We also have the Protecion Civil, which in comparison terms are a little like a cross between the Special Constabulary and the Police Community Support Officers in the UK. They are volunteers who assist in events like road closures, gathering etc. They have no power of arrest and are not armed with anything.