Alertcops: the 21st century police (SPAIN)


The Secretary of State for Security has launched a free app for mobile phones called AlertCops, which in a short time has had 500,000 users and which represents an important technological advance in the relationship between the Police and the public.

It consists of an App for alerting the security forces by phone or chat, which allows photos and videos to be sent. It has a geolocator that facilitates the location where the alert or call is issued for witnessing a criminal act or requesting urgent police assistance. So much for the theory of the new technological tool. Now let’s look at the reality that all Police and civil guards are aware of and the public is unaware of, which has nothing to do with the Interior’s propaganda.

In order for such an alert to be effective, an adequate deployment of state security forces throughout the national territory is required, and this is not the case today. Until about ten years ago, there was such a deployment of vehicles in the cities, where the response time to calls to 091 was less than 3 minutes, the lowest average is known in any police force in the world, but that is no longer the case today and has not been the case for years. Anyone calling 091 anywhere in Spain can see that it can take minutes before their call is answered. The same can happen if you call 112. The European emergency number in Spain overlaps with 091 and whose coordination can be clearly improved. The 091 rooms are, practically all of them, far below the minimum number of staff needed to deal with calls immediately. The Guardia Civil’s 062 has never reached the level of effectiveness and response of 091. Most Guardia Civil barracks are closed at night and at weekends. In rural areas, where the Guardia Civil is responsible, citizen patrols are responsible for preventing theft in the countryside and small towns. The Guardia Civil concentrates in the cities because it obtains a better image than in rural areas, in breach of Organic Law 2/86.

Not only is there a serious planning problem in the 091 rooms on the part of police officers and public safety policymakers, but this is exacerbated by the fact that, once the 091 room is able to take the call, it may be one of the thousands that go unanswered every month. And not calls about unimportant matters. For example, some residents of a Seville neighbourhood last summer waited for two hours without a police car arriving while a citizen under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol strolled among them, sitting on a bar terrace, threatening them with a large knife. Neither the National nor the Local Police responded to the calls. It did not occur to any of them to notify the Guardia Civil, with a nearby barracks, because it is known that this is the force that takes the longest to respond to emergency calls. Between several citizens, he was arrested and held in custody for quite some time. Or a woman who called for more than two hours while her ex-partner was hitting the door of her house with a large stone trying to break it down and threatening to kill her. Luckily for her, the door held. If she had been overcome, she would possibly be added to the statistics of fatal victims of gender violence today, and her calls to 091 would never be known,

The usual complaint of lack of personnel that is made by police and civil guard unions and associations is not true; it is due to a problem of organisation of each Corps and coordination between them, because today, with several thousand fewer troops than ten years ago, Spain continues to be the second country in the EU in the police/population ratio, behind only Italy.

The “Zs” or GAC (Grupos de Atención a la Ciudadanía, those who respond to 091 calls) are the worst considered and the ones used for any unforeseen circumstance, because their task, to respond to urgent calls from citizens, is not a priority for the commanders or policymakers. The security of the public is secondary, and vehicles are taken from this service whenever a politician appears in the city in question to provide security, or for the custody of prisoners in hospitals (the responsibility of Penitentiary Institutions), or for other unforeseen incidents that the chief on duty considers, such as the wedding of the daughter of a sub-delegate, or an event of an important figure who is a friend of the police commander, among other things. Numerous complaints over the years for events such as these have fallen on deaf ears while there were only two cars, or one, and sometimes none, for a city that required at least six, eight or ten vehicles for prevention and assistance to the public. As there is no external control instrument or transparency, the number of unanswered calls to 091 and 062 and the response time to them are data that are hidden to maintain a fiction of security that often does not correspond to reality. If these real data were known and without manipulation, we would be facing a scandal of great magnitude.

In addition to what has been said so far, a few years ago the Police reorganised its Citizen Security Brigades and where all the personnel were GAC, to attend to calls from the public, other Units have been created – not in all the staff – such as the UPR (Prevention and Reaction Units) or the GOR (Operational Response Groups), whose personnel have been taken away from attending to the public and whose main mission is to carry out citizen controls, raids on bars and premises, etc. Although the procedure is currently being reviewed, there has been a case of an urgent call to 091 without any members of the GAC being nearby while several members of an RPU were in a nearby area carrying out an identity check on people without being alerted to the incident. A police car stopped in the street making 100 identifications is less effective and guarantees less security than if it makes none and is patrolling the district. It is so elementary that it is embarrassing to have to say it. Such random mass stops, which number in the millions here every year, are illegal and are not carried out in any of our neighbouring countries because they violate citizens’ civil rights. This practice of stops without legal cause (that the identified person is suspected of having committed a crime or that they may commit a crime) was imposed in the 1990s as a result of the “Corcuera Law” and is still being extended today with the “Gag Law”.

Advances in technology are welcome, but for it to be effective and go beyond the stage of a mere propaganda tool, the Interior has an arduous task and many changes to make in the security forces and bodies, the National Police and the Guardia Civil.