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"When I bought an apartment in Ronda in 2001 and a house in 2003, Paul was an invaluable help in my dealings with estate agents, lawyers, at the bank and at the notary. It’s too risky to do it all without a competent interpreter. Many do, but I would strongly advise against it."
Dr J Burgess, Warrington, UK, January 2010

Spanish Police PDF
Monday, 29 August 2011 09:00

I’ve become a bit of an expert on the Spanish police lately. Since we moved house six months ago I’ve had more contact with the three Spanish equivalents of the Old Bill than I would have wished for! What with threatening behaviour, ABH, property damage, animal cruelty, hygiene, noise pollution, removal of a dead horse and a lost passport, I reckon I know more than most about the way the system operates ...

Policía Nacional

The tall, fit, jackbooted criminal police wear dark blue uniforms and drive around in blue and white cars. Some of them are so young they look like sixth formers on work experience! They deal with crime, so for our issues of being threatened with violence, actual bodily harm and criminal damage to two cars and our garden gates, this was the police force we needed. Also, when I lost my passport, I had to make the denuncia at the Comisaría de Policía.

Guardia Civil

The green-clad civil guard has had something of a makeover since Franco’s day, when their officers were nothing short of the dictator’s brutal paramilitary stormtroopers.  Nowadays, they are responsible for borders and rural areas. A specialist branch, Seprona, is responsible for the environment and animal welfare, so these were who we turned to when we needed assistance with an issue of severe animal cruelty locally.

Policía Local

This is the local police force, which seems to deal with everything else. From traffic control to parking, from noise pollution control to marshalling at public events, they are also responsible for attending incidents involving other emergency services, such as the Fire Brigade, Ambulance, Mountain Rescue, etc. They even read the electricity and water meters in the villages! I’ve seen them!

So, all in all, with three forces, all with different roles and responsibilities, it can be pretty confusing for your average citizen, especially if he or she is a foreigner.

Emergency numbers

In an emergency and if in doubt ring the emergency numbers as follows:

112 – police, fire, ambulance (999 equivalent)
091 – policía nacional
092 – policía local
062 – guardia civil

However, just a tip, we’ve discovered that if you ring the local number of the appropriate force rather than the emergency numbers, which go via Madrid or Málaga, the response may be quicker.

© Paul Whitelock

An expanded version of this article appears on the Olive Press website at


Related article:

The Wild Wild West of Ronda

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Paul Whitelock

Paul is a Joint Honours graduate in Spanish and German, a qualified teacher (PGCE) and has a Member of the Institute of Linguists (MIL) qualification.

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