Spain Table of Contents
The 1986 organic law unifying the separate uniformed and plainclothes branches of the national police was a major reform that required a considerable period of time to be brought into full effect. The former plainclothes service, known as the Higher Police Corps, but often referred to as the "secret police," consisted of some 9,000 officers. Prior to 1986, it had a supervisory and coordinating role in police operations, conducted domestic surveillance, collected intelligence, investigated major crimes, issued identity documents, and carried out liaison with foreign police forces.
The uniformed service was a completely separate organization with a complement of about 50,000 officers, including a small number of female recruits who were first accepted for training in 1984. The Director General of the National Police Corps, a senior official of the Ministry of Interior, commanded 13 regional headquarters, 50 provincial offices, and about 190 municipal police stations. In the nine largest cities, several district police stations served separate sections of the city. The chief of police of each station was in command of both the uniformed and the plainclothes officers attached to the station. A centrally controlled Special Operations Group (Grupo Especial de Operaciones--GEO) was an elite fighting unit trained to deal with terrorist and hostage situations.
The principal weapons regularly used by the uniformed police were 9mm pistols, 9mm submachine guns, CETME and NATO 7.62mm rifles, and various forms of riot equipment. The uniform consisted of light brown trousers and dark brown jackets.
The initial training phase for recruits to the National Police Corps was nine months, followed by a year of practical training. Promotions to corporal, sergeant, and sergeant major were based on seniority, additional training, and performance. In the Franco era, most police officers were seconded from the army. Under a 1978 law, future police officers were to receive separate training, and army officers detailed to the police were to be permanently transferred. By 1986 only 170 army officers remained in the National Police Corps. Under the 1986 organic law, military-type training for police was to be terminated, and all candidate officers were to attend the Higher Police School at Ávila, which previously had served as the three-year training center for the Higher Police Corps. The ranks of the plainclothes corps--commissioners, subcommissioners, and inspectors of first, second, and third class--were to be assimilated into the ranking system of the uniformed police--colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, captain, and lieutenant. Two lower categories --subinspection and basic--would include all nonofficer uniformed personnel. The newly unified National Police Corps was to be responsible for issuing identity cards and passports, as well as for immigration and deportation controls, refugees, extradition, deportation, gambling controls, drugs, and supervision of private security forces.
Franco's Armed and Traffic Police had once been dreaded as one of the most familiar symbols of the regime's oppressiveness. During the 1980s, however, the police effected an internal transformation, adopting wholeheartedly the new democratic spirit of the times. The police unwaveringly supported the legally constituted government during the 1981 coup attempt. Led by the new police trade union, the police demonstrated in 1985 against right-wing militants in their ranks and cooperated in efforts to punish misconduct and abuses of civil rights by individual officers.
Data as of December 1988