Wednesday, 14.04.2021
 Daily news from the Canaries and the islands' biggest English language newspaper on-line
Daily news from the Canaries and the islands
   Daily news from the Canaries and the islands' biggest English language newspaper on-line

Union criticises government
Police fight for rights
“We feel truly sorry that this government does not value us”, said the Spanish Police Union (SUP) in a recently published manifesto released amid a series of demonstrations that heavily criticised the budget cuts and conditions placed upon them by the current Madrid administration.

SUP representatives say that budget cuts prevent the police from protecting themselves and the public
SUP representatives say that budget cuts prevent the police from protecting themselves and the public

17.12.2015 - “For over four years the government has done nothing to change our precarious situation and we are tired of how we are depicted in the media and the unfair image we’ve been tainted with.  We are the victims of discrimination, corruption and abuse by the Ministry of the Interior for their own agendas”, said a representative of SUP, summarising the discontent of the National Police.

“We are also sorry that we are currently working with insufficient protection and equipment, that our own safety is at risk and that our budgets and salaries have been slashed.  This in turn has led to inadequate response times and we are also very regretful about this”.

With the forthcoming general election taking place on December 20, the situation has been somewhat carpeted over and the SUP are keen to clear up their image, calling for nationwide demonstrations on December 10 and 17.

On July 1 this year, president Mariano Rajoy famously passed the so-called Ley de Mordaza (Gag Law) which makes unauthorised demonstrations illegal and punishable – severely hindering the democratic freedoms of speech that once epitomised the Spanish Constitution after their relatively recent return to democracy.  Fines of between €600 and €30,000 are imposed on unauthorised demonstrators but this has not deterred the National Police from going ahead with their protests; a group which is well aware that they should identify every person involved in the action, to be in accordance with the law.

In some cities, including Murcia, Badajoz and Cádiz, the police protest was prohibited while other borough councils did not respond to the petition to hold a demonstration.  However, here in the Canaries the action received strong support and the police union carried out protests in Tenerife and Gran Canaria, successfully making their demands known to the general public.  In other areas across Spain, whether they had official permission or not, the SUP bypassed the ‘Gag Law’ by using smaller groups to represent the union’s interests, as a demonstration is considered as such when 20 or more people are involved.

“We just want to be better prepared to work efficiently and ensure that police officials and members of the public are properly protected.  Everyone is talking about counter-terrorism and prevention at the moment, and we want to provide the security that people expect, but to do so we need more funds and more staff”, said José Luis Guedes, general secretary of the SUP.  He also emphasised the positive response by the general public: “Many people have encouraged us to continue fighting and found it shameful that the police force must take to the streets in this country”.

There were even further cuts to police services in the most recent budget put through by the present government and the number of new recruits has been severely reduced due to the decision to not replace retiring officers.  “Over the last four years about 3,000 colleagues have retired annually while barely 500 new officers have been recruited.  We need more people, this is simply unacceptable to carry out the job we’re expected to do”, Guedes said.

He also described the dangers that officers face everyday due to austerity-imposed cuts: “Over half the police force does not have bulletproof vests and there are not enough firearms for officers to defend themselves.  We have reported on many occasions how the practices of criminals and organisations have changed in recent times.  They are using the latest equipment and technologies available and we, quite simply, are not.  This makes it very difficult to effectively do our job – especially with regards to terrorist cells.  If we discover something we are unable to use police radios as they’re easy to intercept so many officers are using their own phones and paying the bill themselves.  In terms of staff numbers and resources we are ill-prepared to deal with the changing situation.  Some officers are using their home as an office and are becoming more reliant on public information to help with cases – it’s an intolerable situation”.

Guedes also explained the general conditions officers are working under: “After over 20 years of negotiations, officers have been offered an increase of €20 for shift work.  It used to be 10 per cent of the wages but this offer is simply abysmal!  Shifts include covering the mornings, afternoons and nights with two days free.  This is a tiring schedule that messes with body rhythms and family life.  The SUP maintains its position that officers deserve better cover and suitable payment for the work they do”.

SUP also wants clarification regarding honours and distinctions as they feel that recent changes in legislation have created a great deal of confusion and bad feeling: “There used to be strict requirements for an order of merit but this has been softened and now colleagues who earn a red cross are seemingly ignored while others are honoured by the Ministry simply for toeing the line.  We are calling for clarification and transparent reasoning for these cases.  Corruption and nepotism at the highest levels are undermining confidence within our ranks and creating resentment.  Can Spain really afford to have such a desolated police force and detrimental policy?”

Gallery: Police fight for rights
SUP representatives say that budget cuts prevent the police from protecting themselves and the public 
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