Spain’s security guards to get powers of arrest

Spain could soon see private security guards carrying out police-style duties such as stopping and searching people, demanding identification and carrying out arrests.

Spain's security guards to get powers of arrest
The plans would allow security guards to detain and identify suspects at public events and at crime ‘hotspots’ like ATM machines. Photo: zoetnet/Flickr

Spain's congressional interior committee approved a bill on Tuesday which would grant authorized private security personnel greater 'policing' powers than ever before.

The bill, which will now have to be approved in Spain’s Senate, would allow security guards to detain and identify suspects at public events and at crime ‘hotspots’ like ATM machines.

It will also permit private security personnel to go after "delinquents caught in the act of committing a crime even in cases where it has nothing to do with the people or goods that they are watching over and protecting."

Spain’s ruling conservative Popular Party has backed the new legislation along with Catalan and Basque nationalist parties CIU and PNV.

Their claim is that the current law relating to private security in public places is “excessively rigid and has made more difficult or impeded the necessary authorization of services to the benefit of the public.”

Spain's socialist PSOE party and left-wing IU are vehemently against the move.

In a statement released on Wednesday, PSOE referred to the private security bill as “another attack by the government on Spain’s welfare state” and congratulated private security companies for the money they are likely to make from the move.

Izquierda Unida told The Local the new bill was part of the government’s ongoing drive towards privatization of the State and its structures.

Asked whether the plans were a cost-cutting measure, IU spokesperson Mariano Asenjo said: "Normally, public services which get privatized end up being much more expensive and lower their quality".

"In the end, it’s all about making more and more cuts to public services and weakening them so that you have a perfect excuse to privatize them."

A spokesperson for Spain’s National Society of Lawyers told The Local "the bill will further decrease Spaniards' civil rights.

"It should only be public authorities carrying out arrests so that arrests and complaints can be processed through the appropriate legal channels."

The move comes in the wake of the government’s highly criticized Citizen Security Law, which will see Spaniards slapped with hefty fines for everything from carrying out unauthorized protests to disrupting traffic by playing football in the street.

Don't miss stories about Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Spain drops probe into ex-military WhatsApp ‘kill squad’

Spanish prosecutors have dropped an investigation into messages posted in a WhatsApp group of retired military officers that denounced Spain's left-wing government and discussed shooting political adversaries.

Spain drops probe into ex-military WhatsApp 'kill squad'

The group was made up of high-ranking retired members of the air force with some of the messages leaked in December to the Infolibre news website, sparking public outrage.

The messages focused on the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose Socialists rule alongside the hard-left Podemos in Spain’s first coalition government since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

“I don’t want these scoundrels to lose the elections. No. I want them and all of their offspring to die,” wrote one.

“For them to die, they must be shot and 26 million bullets are needed,” wrote another, referring to the number of people who cast their ballots in favour.

Prosecutors opened their investigation in mid-December after finding the statements were “totally contrary to the constitutional order with veiled references to a military coup”.

But they dropped the probe after concluding the content of the chat did not constitute a hate crime by virtue of the fact it was a private communication.

“Its members ‘freely’ expressed their opinions to the others ‘being confident they were among friends’ without the desire to share the views elsewhere,” the Madrid prosecutors office said.

The remarks constituted “harsh” criticism that fell “within the framework of freedom of expression and opinion,” it said.

The decision is likely to inflame protests that erupted in mid-February over the jailing of a Spanish rapper for tweets found to be glorifying terrorism, a case that has raised concerns over freedom of speech in Spain.

According to Infolibre, some of the chat group also signed a letter by more than 70 former officers blaming the Sanchez government for the “breakdown of national unity” that was sent to Spain’s King Felipe VI in November.

Such remarks echo criticism voiced by Spain’s rightwing and far-right opposition that has denounced the government for courting separatist parties in order to push legislation through parliament where it only holds a minority.