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The Curmudgeon

The curmudgeon is a miserable sod. He likes to have a moan. He tackles subjects which many foreigners living in Spain agree with but are too polite to say anything.

Spanish Police Check - What are the "fuzz" like?
Saturday, April 23, 2022 @ 2:14 PM

 

 

Police check in Spain

 

The Curmudgeon 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 Algunlugar 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 [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 in order 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 CivilGeneral 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 the 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 four times in Algunlugar and twice elsewhere – that amounts to 600€ if you pay quickly and claim the 50% discount.

The way the system 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, monitored mums and dads outside schools 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, vandalism of two vehicles. 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!!

 

Note: To read an article about the roles of the three different police forces in Spain, click here.



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4 Comments


lenox said:
Sunday, April 24, 2022 @ 8:21 AM

The Guardia Civil in the old days used to have to use their own mopeds. They would come around our place in the campo, a pair of them ('una pareja') to have us sign a chit and to sample our whisky. We would send a crate of it to the local cuartel at Christmas.
Now the Guardia are best known as the traffic cops 'los primos' and they are an unfailingly polite branch of the government's tithe-creators. There's said to be a system of the quota of fines to be issued by each cop.
They were feared by the common people in Franco's times as you say, but now they are unpopular with the motorists.


lenox said:
Sunday, April 24, 2022 @ 8:23 AM

The Guardia Civil in the old days used to have to use their own mopeds. They would come around our place in the campo, a pair of them ('una pareja') to have us sign a chit and to sample our whisky. We would send a crate of it to the local cuartel at Christmas.
Now the Guardia are best known as the traffic cops 'los primos' and they are an unfailingly polite branch of the government's tithe-creators. There's said to be a system of the quota of fines to be issued by each cop.
They were feared by the common people in Franco's times as you say, but now they are unpopular with the motorists.


PablodeRonda said:
Sunday, April 24, 2022 @ 8:47 AM

Interesting about the mopeds.
My dealings with the guardia civil over the last dozen years or so have been largely positive.
They are friendly and flexible. More so than the municipales.
When I was caught in a speed trap a few years ago in Sevilla province, they were most apologetic that they were going to fine me for speeding.
I've also been stopped for random checks (looking for contraband, I think), they are incredibly polite and respectful and when they realise I'm a guiri they just wave me on, again apologising profusely for having inconvenienced me.
I love 'em!



lenox said:
Sunday, April 24, 2022 @ 1:06 PM

I was once driving the a Spanish friend somewhere and we got stopped. The traffic police were searching the car and they looked in the ashtray (!). I said, 'what are you looking for?' and they said 'arms'. I said, 'you won't find any in the ashtray'.


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