Whenever possible I tune into Calendar news for what I call my Yorkshire fix. It’s nice to see familiar landmarks and hear the accent of those being interviewed, everybody over here seems to be a southerner.
I sat up and took a little more interest when they unveiled the new weapon the police were being issued with to fight crime in Leeds. A body camera. Having worked in the police cells in Leeds for a short time I am only too familiar with how cameras are used against the police. As soon as the boys in blue start making arrests everyone becomes David Bailey, so I think it’s a good idea to see it from the other side.
This made me think about the difference between the UK and the Spanish police. I think the most obvious is the respect given to the Spanish police officer, or Guardia Civil, to give them their correct title. Then again, strap a gun to anybody’s hip and I think you tend to treat them with a little more reverence. Unfortunately it’s not just the gun, in July of this year a new law (called the gag law) was introduced.
As I write this article I have to be very careful not to fall foul of it myself, the punishments can be quite hefty. Basically the law prevents anybody showing any disrespect to an officer, the fine for which is €600 (£500). The law also includes fines of up to €30,000 for disseminating images of police officers that “would endanger their safety or that of protected areas or put the success of an operation at risk”.
The new law is being taken to the Human Rights Court by journalists who feel some of its recent uses have been… shall we say over velous. For example the man who posted a picture of two officers drinking in a bar (even though their faces were not on show.) He was heavily fined, and the Spanish woman who put on Facebook a picture of a police car parked in a reserved parking bay for the disabled. She was fined €800.
I certainly don’t want you to get the wrong impression of policing in Spain. In fact I have several friends in the Guardia Civil, and better people you couldn’t wish to meet. In fact a few years ago, Heather and I were invited to the annual celebration of the Guardia Civil. We were the only English there and it soon became apparent that the officers we drink with in the bar were not your run of the mill traffic cops. As it turned out these were some of the most senior officers in Granada. When we first saw them in their uniforms my jaw dropped. They were displaying more gold and medals than a South American general.
Though you’re not supposed to take pictures I couldn’t resist just one, stood between them. It never hurts to have friends in high places.