Security policies

Considerations on the policial model

Written by: Amadeu Recasens i Brunet

Keywords: #PolicialModel #Security Policies

A police model cannot and should not be seen as finished but is a reality in permanent construction

(*) In general terms, the current Spanish police model, the one that was born with democracy and the 1978 Constitution, is a failed model, but not non-existent. It is unsuccessful because it has a set of foundational bad habits that make it unsuitable for a modern society.

The transition from a dictatorship to a democracy raised the need for a social, cultural and institutional change. This change should have been radical, since it was a diametrically radical turn in the political regime. The change was not possible because the factual authority lies in the old regime, and because the lack of strength of those who advocated radical change. So by a hybrid compromise, called consensus, a managed democracy was reached. In this context, the failed police model was forged, with the resistance to change from a large part of the security forces and the army (at that time, the state police were militarized, the local police were relegated to an auxiliary role, and the autonomous they were still practically non-existent or very incipient). The Spanish police model of those years was therefore made without the proper transversal criteria and without securing the public interest at the center of said development.

The current situation, despite presenting a certain appearance of normality, is heir to the initial deficiencies, and turns into problems and dysfunctions. For example: police overlaps; lack of coordination and poor information transferring; limited recruitment of women into the police force (which entails an evident masculinization and even corporate machismo); an authoritarian idea of power; imprecise use of violence; presence of important formative gaps; or delay in the incorporation of new technologies, among other shortcomings.

The foregoing allows to affirm that the current spanish police model exists, but as a failed model and with significant dysfunctions. You can try to patch and refloat, but its bad habits (hidden and visible) will still be there and will be accentuate due de obsolenscence overtime. If doing more of the same does not solve the problem, perhaps it will be necessary to think about doing something different, but without forgetting that any proposal for a police model must be accompanied by a model of security, justice and a comprehensive vision of the model of society in which it is incardine.

A society based on the full recognition of human rights and freedoms requires rethinking the traditional security model developed by the Westphalian states. A paradigm shift is imposed, stop thinking that security refers to State security and place the person as the primary recipient, linked to the concept of human development and with human rights as the central axis of said security.

In this context, it is necessary for the police model to be aligned in that direction, and this entails an important cultural transformation, which in turn can only be achieved through important changes at the functional and organizational level, the impulse of which corresponds essentially to the institutions, to the administrations, citizens and the police themselves.

It is necessary to include the police model in a security model and in the corresponding public security policies. In them, the police are no longer the sole actor, not even the main actor. They constitute one more, important actor, but one more, in concurrence / cooperation with other actors and with the panoply of resources available in the distribution established at any given moment. It must also be taken into account that the variability and use of such resources is currently highly volatile and changing, which requires constant (re) adaptation that is hardly commensurate with slow regulatory processes and massive police corporations. Adaptation requires formulas that allow agility to be combined with the guarantees and rights of democratically advanced societies.

What has been raised so far leads us to formulate a set of considerations, which are most likely valid not only for the Spanish police and security model, but for many models that seek to develop in societies that aspire to improve their democratic environments:

The first consists of the need to move from the idea of ​​order to that of security, adopting in general terms the idea of ​​human security (in the sense of covering basic human needs) and assuming that its policies can only be designed and be executed in a model of real and effective co-production between institutions and citizens. Also assuming a transversal concept of public safety that incorporates urban planning, cleanliness, lighting, noise, and in general the shared and peaceful use of public spaces and other contextual elements that avoid a feeling of insecurity and increase the quality of life.

The second is based on the necessary generation of trust in the security forces, and the adaptation to them of control mechanisms (both internal and external), training, management and autonomy, which ensure their harmony with society and its realities. A modern police model should be decentralized and with a high capacity for autonomy to units and even agents who must make decisions and resolve situations in short periods of time.

The third contribution is to recognize that vertical and hierarchical corporate organizations do not have the sufficient capacity to respond to the increasing complexity of the modern world. This requires more horizontal police organizations, as well as an important change in culture to focus the police model towards a new culture of security, a culture of inter-corporate and inter-institutional cooperation, based on loyalty and transversality.

The fourth raises the commitment to citizenship, which should be reflected in the co-production of public security policies, from the most concrete and focused to the establishment of the guidelines for the formulation of the new police model.

The fifth consideration is the verification of the need for a new police profession. In a preventive model, which prioritizes proximity, knowledge of the territory and the harmonious development of public space and its uses, it is important to redefine the role of the police. Self-referential (corporatist) bodies, separated from democratic powers and citizens and operating under the primacy of reactive interventions, cannot constitute the bulk of a model based on service to citizens, conflict resolution, promotion of coexistence and prevention.

In order to effectively develop the considerations outlined here, some elements of indisputable urgency appear, which should immediately outline the premises for a longer-term path. Among them we can mention:

a) Redefinition of bodies and functions. Professionalization of the police. A professional police officer should give priority to his belonging to the profession before his integration into a body,

b) Establishment and development of co-produced, rigorous, transparent and evaluated public security policies.

c) Development of a police intelligence model for the establishment of a prevention model based on anticipation and transversal planning; focused on the facts and their causes, rather than on the generation of prototypes and stereotypes of criminals. This has been shown to be much more effective and efficient than any reaction model.

d) Implementation of a transparent model of communication and feedback with citizens.

And finally, it is necessary to take into account organizational and economic aspects; develop police master plans; accompany each proposal with an analysis of economic and opportunity costs; evaluate and optimize resources; de-bureaucratize the police to place the maximum number of troops in operational tasks; perform sizing analysis; take into account the labor repercussions of the actions undertaken; have a clear training model … that among many other issues that should be analyzed in a continuous monitoring, study and review of the police model.

A police model cannot and should not be seen as finished but is a reality in permanent construction in the day-to-day of police and social activity as one more element of the construction and development of a democratic society.

A full police model will only be achieved through intense work by the institutions to reform the police in the broader framework of security and through a co-responsibility of citizens as an essential actor in the construction of what should be the broader objective: an assumable security model and assumed by the society to which it belongs and to which it is owed.

(*) This brief is based on an intervention before the Commission for the Study of the XXI century police model (journal of sessions of the Congress of Deputies No. 649, year 2018: /L12/CONG/DS/CO/DSCD-12-CO-649.PDF) and has been developed in an article in the Sobiranies Magazine (03/19/2021).


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