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Puntos de vista - a personal Spain blog

Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

Police check
Tuesday, December 21, 2021 @ 4:49 AM

Pablo de Ronda has had dealings with all three Spanish police forces over the years. Here is his assessment of their relative strengths and weaknesses and their level of ‘niceness’ or charm.

I was stopped by the tráfico section of the Guardia Civil on my way into Ronda the other day. Not sure what I’d done, but they asked for my car documents anyway and my ID.

While one of them was checking me out on his handheld computer, his colleague asked me if I had a police record.

Without hesitation I replied: “Yes, sir, several in fact. ‘Walking on the Moon’, ‘Roxanne’, ‘Message in a Bottle’ …..”


Three police forces

There are three different police bodies in Spain, which I have written about previously [Editor: please see hyperlink at end of article].

Each force has its own responsibilities, but there is sometimes an overlap, which is confusing for Spaniards as well as foreigners. Which one do you go to report a crime, for example? Depends on whether the crime took pace in the town or in the country.


Guardia Civil

My first memories of the Spanish police date from the 1970s when I was in my early 20s studying Spanish in San Sebastián (Guipúzcoa).

These were the, at that time, dreaded Guardia Civil, General Franco’s ‘stormtroopers’. They had a reputation for fierceness and brutality and for being uncompromising.

Their patent-leather tricorn hats were a symbol of these quasi-military types and they struck fear into hearts and minds of the locals, especially in the Basque country where Franco was ‘waging war’ on the Basque identity and their language euskera, which was prohibited.

In San Sebastián every August there was a machine-gun toting guardia civil on every street corner. General Franco liked to spend his summer hols in the elegant Basque resort and the security had to be really tight.

Franco died in November 1975 and the process of Spain becoming a parliamentary democracy began in earnest, aided by and abetted by Franco’s nominated heir as head of state, King Juan Carlos I*.

One thing that had to change was the Guardia Civil. The force was subjected to a root and branch makeover. They began a charm offensive; out went the military-style uniforms and the tricorn hats, the latter to be replaced by soft berets. They were trained to be respectful and pleasant towards the public.

So, 45 years on, most Guardia Civil officers are polite and friendly and, above all, human and flexible in their approach to law enforcement.


Policía Local

The same cannot be said of some officers of the Policía Local or los municipales, as they are known. My recent dealings with members of this force have left me flabbergasted and much worse-off financially.

I have been fined for parking infringements three times in Montejaque (Málaga) and twice in Ronda – that amounts to 500€ if you pay quickly and claim the 50% discount.

The way the sysem works is that if you pay within 20 working days and waive your right to challenge the fine, you pay only 100€ instead of 200€.

That’s unfair as it discourages motorists with a legitimate challenge from doing so. You never win against the cops anyway, I’ve been told by many a Spaniard. So, best to pay up sharpish, bite your tongue and get the discount.

Gone are the days when the local bobbies read the meters, montitored mums and dads outside school at the start and end of the school day and delivered important official post.

If they caught you parked wrongly, they’d just ask you to move on.

Not any longer!


Policía Nacional

As for the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía I have had little to do with them in recent years, as they are responsible for combating crime, which I am not involved in (Honest, guv!).

We had some problems 10 years ago involving threatening behaviour, actual bodily harm and damage to property. The CNP officers were quick to respond to our emergency calls and to deal with the problems. Out of interest the perpetrator of these ‘crimes’, José O., is currently behind bars in Alhaurín de la Torre penitentiary. Best place for him and long overdue!

I have had to present a few denuncias – theft of wife’s handbag (twice!), my wallet (once), loss of passport, ill-treatment of animals. That kind of thing.

On these occasions I found the officers to be slow and quite inefficient, yet polite and respectful also.


Police check

So, in conclusion, my rank order of ‘niceness’ is:

1st - La Guardia Civil; 2nd - La Policía Nacional; and a distant 3rd - La Policía Local.

And, guess which force earns the most?

You’ll be surprised!!

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