Police in Spain: A Guide To The Three Different Police Forces in Spain

When exploring Spain’s scenic cities, from the lively streets of Madrid to the quaint lanes of Seville, one thing stands out: the consistent presence of police officers. Police in Spain play a crucial role in maintaining safety and public order. It’s beneficial to understand the distinctions among the country’s three primary police forces. Let’s simplify and uncover more about Spain’s law enforcement.

Local or Municipal Police – Policía Local (Dial 092)

  • Signature Look: Dressed predominantly in blue, they’re easy to identify and are a comforting sight for residents and tourists alike.
  • Regions: Mostly concentrated in areas with a population exceeding 5,000. In the artistic city of Barcelona, they go by ‘Guardia Urbana’, whereas in historical sites like Madrid and Valladolid, they’re addressed as Municipal Police (Policía Municipal).
  • Strength in Numbers: With a whopping 70,000 officers distributed across Spain’s diverse landscape, their presence in the 17 autonomous communities ensures that local law and order are maintained.
  • Primary Duties:
    • Traffic Management: From guiding the traffic in bustling urban areas to issuing parking tickets, they ensure smooth flow and order.
    • Urban Vigilance: Reporting accidents, managing civil disturbances, and overseeing the safety of public events, from vibrant fiestas to public demonstrations.
    • Guardians of the City: The local police also symbolize the protective shield for town authorities and their emblematic buildings.
  • Language Skills: If you’re in a tourist hotspot, their multilingual skills, especially in English, come as a blessing in disguise.
  • In Case of Need: For day-to-day issues, such as minor thefts, traffic discrepancies, or bylaw violations, dial 092.

National Police – Policía Nacional (Dial 091)

  • Signature Look: The black uniforms they don make them distinct and easily distinguishable amidst the sea of people.
  • Territory: Predominantly found in larger urban centers, especially the capital cities of Spain’s 50 provinces.
  • Roster Strength: The 87,000-strong force, as of 2020, serves as a testament to Spain’s commitment to battling grave crimes.
  • Key Duties:
    • Serious Crimes: They’re the frontline defenders against dire offenses such as muggings, sexual assaults, and drug-related problems.
    • National Concerns: Their responsibilities extend to overseeing critical issues like border control, organized crime rings, and potential threats of terrorism.
    • Identity Services: Lost your passport or need a new one? They’re responsible for essential national documents like NIE, TIE, DNI, and, of course, passports.
  • Presence: It’s not uncommon to spot them at vital road checkpoints, sometimes heavily armed, ensuring that no threats permeate into the city’s heart.
  • Special Regional Forces: The Basque Country, Catalonia, and Navarre each have their unique police forces – Ertzaintza, Mossos d’Esquadra, and Policía Foral respectively, reflecting Spain’s rich regional diversities.
  • Emergencies: For grave issues, especially ones that threaten personal safety, such as robbery or violent altercations, immediately dial 091.

The Civil Guard – Guardia Civil (Dial 062)

  • Signature Appearance: Their striking dark-green uniform is a symbol of Spain’s oldest law enforcement legacy.
  • Dominion: They are the vigilant watchers of Spain’s expansive highways and serene rural landscapes, although Basque Country, Catalonia, and Navarre are exceptions.
  • Personnel: Around 75,000 officers stand tall, with a dedicated 10,000 focusing on the vast stretch of Spain’s highways.
  • Diverse Duties:
    • Rural and Highway Patrol: From attending grave traffic mishaps to manning strategic checkpoints, they ensure safety is never compromised.
    • Specialized Tasks: Many of the Guardia Civil officers undergo rigorous training, making them experts in areas like cybercrime, explosives handling, counterterrorism measures, and even mountain search and rescue operations.
  • History and Setup: Established in 1844, the Guardia Civil, with its military roots, is stationed in barracks, or ‘Casas Cuartel’, setting them apart from their counterparts.
  • Reaching Out: In dire circumstances, or to report rural discrepancies, dial 062.

In an Emergency

Emergency Number Spain - Police in Spain

Spain has a central emergency number – 112. If ever in confusion about which force to engage with, this number is your go-to solution.

20 Helpful Spanish Phrases When Speaking to the Police in Spain

Interacting with the police in a foreign country can be daunting, but having a few essential phrases at hand can make a significant difference. Here are some handy Spanish phrases to use when dealing with the police in Spain:

  1. Hello/Good day.
    • Spanish: Hola/Buenos días.
    • Pronunciation: Oh-lah/ Bway-nos dee-as.
  2. Excuse me.
    • Spanish: Disculpe.
    • Pronunciation: Dees-kool-pay.
  3. I need help.
    • Spanish: Necesito ayuda.
    • Pronunciation: Neh-seh-see-toh ah-yoo-dah.
  4. I have a problem.
    • Spanish: Tengo un problema.
    • Pronunciation: Ten-go oon pro-bleh-mah.
  5. I’ve lost my passport.
    • Spanish: He perdido mi pasaporte.
    • Pronunciation: Eh pehr-dee-doh mee pah-sah-por-teh.
  6. I’ve been robbed.
    • Spanish: Me han robado.
    • Pronunciation: Meh an roh-bah-doh.
  7. Can I see your identification?
    • Spanish: ¿Puede mostrarme su identificación?
    • Pronunciation: Pweh-deh mohs-trar-meh soo eeden-tee-fee-kah-see-ohn?
  8. Where is the nearest police station?
    • Spanish: ¿Dónde está la comisaría más cercana?
    • Pronunciation: Don-deh es-tah lah koh-mee-sah-ree-ah mas ser-kah-nah?
  9. I want to report a crime.
    • Spanish: Quiero denunciar un delito.
    • Pronunciation: Kee-ehr-oh deh-noon-see-ar oon deh-lee-toh.
  10. Is it safe here?
    • Spanish: ¿Es seguro aquí?
    • Pronunciation: Es seh-goo-roh ah-kee?
  11. I don’t understand.
    • Spanish: No entiendo.
    • Pronunciation: Noh en-tee-en-doh.
  12. Can you speak more slowly?
    • Spanish: ¿Puede hablar más despacio?
    • Pronunciation: Pweh-deh ah-blar mas des-pah-see-oh?
  13. Can I call a lawyer?
    • Spanish: ¿Puedo llamar a un abogado?
    • Pronunciation: Pweh-doh ya-mar ah oon ah-boh-gah-doh?
  14. I didn’t do anything wrong.
    • Spanish: No he hecho nada malo.
    • Pronunciation: Noh eh eh-choh nah-dah mah-loh.
  15. I want to see the American/British/Canadian/Australian embassy.
    • Spanish: Quiero ver la embajada americana/británica/canadiense/australiana.
    • Pronunciation: Kee-ehr-oh ver lah em-bah-hah-dah ah-meh-ree-kah-nah/bree-tahn-ee-kah/kan-ah-dee-en-seh/ows-trah-lee-ah-nah.
  16. Please write it down.
    • Spanish: Por favor, escríbalo.
    • Pronunciation: Por fah-vor, es-kree-bah-lo.
  17. Thank you.
    • Spanish: Gracias.
    • Pronunciation: Grah-see-as.
  18. I need an interpreter.
    • Spanish: Necesito un intérprete.
    • Pronunciation: Neh-seh-see-toh oon een-tehr-preh-teh.
  19. Where can I pay the fine?
    • Spanish: ¿Dónde puedo pagar la multa?
    • Pronunciation: Don-deh pweh-doh pah-gar lah mool-tah?
  20. I am a tourist.
    • Spanish: Soy turista.
    • Pronunciation: Soy too-ree-stah.

Practicing the pronunciation and familiarizing yourself with these phrases can help you navigate any interaction with Spanish police with confidence. Safe travels!

Wrapping Up: While Spain’s rich history, culinary wonders, and architectural marvels might be the main draw for many, it’s the impeccable safety net of these law enforcement agencies that often goes unnoticed. Though you might hear hushed conversations about occasional internal issues, it’s undeniable that Spanish police forces are, more often than not, the epitome of professionalism and courtesy. Stay safe, and as the locals say, “¡Buen viaje!” (Safe travels!). 🇪🇸👮‍♂️🚔

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Hi, I'm Pablo, an internet marketer who enjoys working and travelling around the Costa Blanca, Spain. I have been fortunate enough to have met some amazing people on my travels and was lucky enough to be able to make Spain my second home in 2018.

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