Visitors to Spain in the 1960s and 70s – in other words, the glory days of the package deal holiday – will be familiar with the sight of the typical Guardia Civil officer. A terrifying vision to most British tourists, accustomed to the friendlier appearance of the British bobby with his comedy domed helmet and non-lethal truncheon, the Guardia officer’s pseudo-military uniform, pistol and bizarre headgear (which looked to the entire world like a satanic typewriter) came as a rude shock.
Move on a few decades and apart from the replacement of the satanic typewriter (or tricornio as it is officially known) with a slightly friendlier cap, there has been very little change to the Guardia uniform. More recently there has been a movement to make the officers seem more approachable, but their booted, martial, faintly sadistic appearance has limited any attempt to be particularly user friendly.
Recently the future of the approachable Guardia officer became much more feasible with the introduction of the new uniform. From now on the officers will be wearing green polo shirts, cargo pants with six pockets, jackets with a removable fleece lining and baseball caps. Footwear consists of urban trekking boots lined with a Gore-Tex membrane. While the old tricornio will be retained for official occasions, this new look marks a new era in the Guardia’s long history.
The new clothing will be a darker green than the old uniforms and has deliberately been designed as a unisex option for the modern era of policing. The words ‘Guardia Civil’ will be displayed, along with the force’s logo and the clothing has been chosen for its suitability for all the weather conditions that the officers might encounter throughout the Spanish year.
The cost of providing 58,000 new uniforms has been estimated at 21.5€ million, but it is thought that the durable nature of the new items will result in a considerable saving in the long run.
As part of this ‘approachability campaign’, the Guardia participated in a Police Day at Benalmádena’s Tivoli World. With displays involving sniffer dogs and lots of audience pleasing gadgets, it is hoped that Police Day will leave the young and old spectators with a more positive view of Spain’s diverse police forces.
Traditionalists, who thought that life was better when jack-booted Guardia officers had free rein, recently received a set-back when it was announced that Malaga’s crime rate experienced the second biggest drop in the country last year. Provincial courts announced that 219,461 cases were handled in 2010, down 23.9 per cent from 2009, compared to a national decrease of 5.8 per cent. Most importantly, the type of violent crime particularly dreaded by most had fallen, while non-violent white collar crime had increased