The Guardia Civil
The Guardia Civil is undoubtedly the most famous police service in Spain, often called the Benemérita. This is a Spanish police unit with military and civil functions with the mission to protect the fatherland. “Todo por la patria” (Everything for the fatherland), that is the Guardia Civil!
During the 17th, 18th and 19thcentury, Spain had to deal with Bandoleros. Especially after the Spanish War of Independence against the French, crime in the Spanish countryside grew exponentially.
King Ferdinand VII realised that the already existing units were not achieving the desired results, which meant that a new unit had to be created. In 1844, the “Guardia Civil” was established. This trained service ultimately managed to make the countryside peaceful again in the middle of the 19th century.
Many foreigners associate the Guardia Civilwith a kind of paramilitary organisation with a great deal of power to terrorise the population. Although this could have been the case during the seventies, it is certainly not the case today. It is a strict but correct police service whose aim is to protect the population.
The Guardia Civilfalls under the authority of both the Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior) and the Ministry of Defence (Ministerio de Defensa).
The package of duties is similar to that of any police department. However, the Guardia Civilfocuses more on the countryside and on villages and towns with a low population.
This police service also has special departments such as the “Guardia CivilTrafico”, which deals with traffic violations, or the “Seprona” which is responsible for the protection of the animals.
Spain has several police forces, so it is not always clear who is responsible for what. In general, we can divide these services into 3 corps. The Guardia Civil, the Policía Nacional and the Policía Local.
The range of duties of these services is very similar. As described above, the Guardia Civilfocuses on rural areas or towns and municipalities with low population density.
The Policía Nacional ensures safety in large cities. Finally, there is the Policía Local (often also called Policía Municipal). This corps falls under the local municipality and its mayor. The officers are therefore hired and paid by the municipal administration. This ensures that this police service only operates within the limits of its municipality or city.
The Policía Local mainly deals with smaller crimes (traffic violations, etc). Larger crimes are immediately transferred to either the Guardia Civilor the Policía Nacional
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, the Guardia Civilhas been replaced in the following regions:
– Catalonia: Mossos de Escuadra
– Basque Country: Ertzaintza
– Canary Islands: Policía Canaria
Finally, Spain also has its own intelligence service, the “CNI” (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia) which is active at home and abroad.
Are you a victim of a crime, but unable to speak Spanish? No problem! The Ministry of the Interior provided its cooperation to the development of a mobile application “AlertCops”.
The application makes reporting a crime very simple, without having to speak the language. But another trick is that you can pass on your exact location via GPS. This is really a very useful addition.
The app is easy to download in the App store (Apple) and Google Play store (Android).