The history of the Police in Spain

Alessandro Iraggi 14/11/2023 5 min 0 Comments
Instituto Hispánico de Murcia - The history of the Police in Spain

The origin of the police in Spain dates back to ancient times when cities and kingdoms had the need to maintain order and ensure the safety of their inhabitants. Throughout history, different stages in the development of security forces in the country can be identified, from medieval justice systems to the creation of modern police forces.

Currently, the Police in Spain plays a fundamental role in preserving public order and fighting crime.

One of the early precursors of the police in Spain can be found in the Middle Ages, where there were the so-called constables tasked with maintaining peace and security in the territories. These constables were appointed by local authorities and had the responsibility to enforce laws and ensure the safety of citizens.

However, a significant change in the police structure in Spain occurred in the 19th century. During the reign of Fernando VII, the Real Policía General del Reino, a precursor to the National Police, was established. This institution’s main objective was the prevention and repression of crime, and it consisted of officials with the power to investigate, arrest, and prosecute lawbreakers.

Throughout the 19th century and the early 20th century, the political situation in Spain was turbulent, leading to various changes in the police organization. During the Second Republic period, different security forces were created, such as the Guardia de Asalto and the Guardia de Seguridad. However, with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the police became divided into different factions, with the National Police under the control of the republican side and the Guardia Civil supporting the rebels.

Throughout history, the police in Spain has evolved from medieval constables to modern forces. It faces challenges such as crime, diversity, technology, and cooperation with society.

After the end of the Civil War, with the rise to power of dictator Francisco Franco, there was a reorganization of security forces. The National Police and the Guardia Civil were unified under a single command and were granted extensive powers to suppress political dissent. During the Franco regime, the police were used as an instrument of repression and social control, generating a negative image among wide sectors of society.

With the advent of democracy in Spain in 1978, there was a profound transformation in the security forces. The Spanish Constitution guaranteed the fundamental rights of citizens and established a legal framework for police action. In this context, a police reform was promoted, aiming to give the National Police and the Guardia Civil a democratic and public service-oriented character.

Currently, the Police in Spain is composed of various security bodies. The National Police is the main force responsible for citizen security and the investigation of crimes on a national scale. Its functions include the prevention and prosecution of crimes, the protection of individuals and property, and collaboration with judicial authorities.

On the other hand, the Civil Guard, although also having functions related to citizen security, has a more focused approach to rural areas and maintaining public order throughout the national territory. Additionally, there are autonomous police forces such as the Mossos d’Esquadra in Catalonia, the Ertzaintza in the Basque Country, and the Foral Police in Navarre, which have specific competencies in their respective autonomous communities.

The current situation of the Police in Spain faces various challenges and obstacles. One of the most prominent challenges is the fight against organized crime and terrorism. The National Police and the Civil Guard have developed specialized units and have collaborated closely with international agencies to combat these threats. Police cooperation at the European and international levels has become essential to address transnational crimes and ensure security in a globalized context.

Ancient origin of the police in Spain. Evolution from medieval constables to modern forces. Challenges: crime, diversity, technology, and citizen relations.

Another significant challenge is the management of citizen security in an increasingly diverse and multicultural environment. Spain has experienced a significant increase in immigration in recent decades, leading to new demands in terms of security and coexistence. The police have worked on promoting equality, preventing discrimination, and strengthening trust among diverse social groups, thus fostering a police force that is closer and more service-oriented to all citizens.

Furthermore, adapting to technological advances is a key factor in police work. Cybercrime, computer crimes, and the use of social networks as a means to commit crimes have required security forces to specialize in these areas. The National Police, for example, has specialized units in cybersecurity and fights against technological crime, with the aim of protecting citizens and combating new forms of criminality.

Regarding the relationship with society, it is essential for the police to maintain close and transparent communication with citizens. Initiatives for proximity and citizen participation have been promoted, encouraging collaboration and mutual trust. Additionally, training and respect for human rights have become fundamental pillars in police actions, with the goal of ensuring respect for the dignity and rights of all individuals.

In summary, the Police in Spain has an origin that dates back to ancient times, evolving throughout history to its current configuration. Since the democratization of the country, significant reforms have been carried out to ensure an adequate legal framework and a police force oriented towards the service and protection of citizens. The fight against crime, the management of diversity, technological adaptation, and the relationship with society are some of the challenges that the Police in Spain currently face, working to maintain security and public order in an ever-changing environment.

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WRITTEN BY Alessandro Iraggi

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