Joan Figuera: “We are a flagship police force, solid and professional”

Comissari Joan Figuera LópezJoan Figuera López, commissioner since 2009, born in Barcelona in 1961, holds a degree in Communication Sciences (UAB) and a master’s qualification in Public Security Policy (UOC). He joined the Mossos d’Esquadra in its first year – now 35 years ago -. During his long and intense professional career he has worked, among other services, in six of the new police regions. He is now head of the Control Centre.

Considering all the years you’ve been with the Generalitat Police force – Mossos d’Esquadra (PG-ME) and in the different ranks and assignments you’ve worked on, how do you regard the evolution of this police force in recent years?

Over the years, we’ve developed a police force more or less from scratch! The first year was the beginning of what we are today. Over these years, we’ve gone through different phases of development and several “growth crises”, which have been logical and necessary to get where we are today, nearing the force’s tercentenary. Now as flagship police force, both solid and professional, capable of meeting the most challenging demands of a modern, developed society like ours.

Our contemporary phase can be traced back to 1979 with the passing of Catalonia’s statute of autonomy. At that time, the Mossos d’Esquadra (CME), comprising nearly a hundred officers, only guaranteed the security of institutional buildings and that of the President and the government of the Generalitat. This can defined as a symbolic stage and of recovery (from 1979 to 1984). On 1 June 1983, 260 police officers joined the CME, and it became a functional police force that took up competences of the Generalitat of Catalonia in terms of security. The force created squads for gambling and sports events, minors, the environment, public health and the penitentiary system, and its first information unit. All of these services give notoriety and prestige to the CME. From 1994 to 2008, the long-awaited replacement implementation arrived, which established the PG-ME as an integral police force all over Catalonia. This is the nuclear phase of our function and our reason for being as police officers. During this period, the CME is developed, is professionalised and matures, and reaches over 17,000 officers. Over the last decade – once the replacement implementation was finalised – we went through a transitional phase (from 2009 to 2015), which went from the “post-implantation” – when the internal structure, organisational style and a methodology still needed to be completed – to the organisational and operational solidity that we have today.

Do you think that the Mossos d’Esquadra are now going through a certain generational change? Is there a need for measures to be taken to address the progressive aging of the force?

Generational change is necessary in all organisations. This also applies to ours. This must be conducted with intelligence and not just anyhow. Organisations and the police, and more specifically the CME, have to take advantage of all the acquired knowledge and added value provided by the experience of those who have a long professional career. A failure to do this might be a fatal mistake! A good leader is the one who shows an ability to resolve security problems at times of crisis and in adverse situations. In conditions of “comfort”, anybody is good! This experience must be handled well so that the young can benefit from it, as they will be directing the CME in the coming decades. This is a new and current strategic challenge.

What challenges does the PG-ME face in the near future and what capacities does it have to address them?

The main challenge is public policies and police strategies to address common and organised crime at all levels. Transversal work is needed here, between the Department of the Interior and the PG-ME and the local corporations of the most important cities, which lead their urban guard and local police to generate more productive synergies, beyond their competences and mandates. A more effective “criminal policy” must be fomented and generated by all operators.

Evidently, terrorism at the level at which we’re experiencing it is another very important challenge. Catalonia, from a geostrategic point of view, is in a preferential place and the capital, Barcelona, has great appeal because of its greatness, diversity and worldwide notoriety. The force has made and is making a very important effort, both in terms of prevention and to react to another dramatic horrifying event like a terrorist attack.

Internally we reached our organisational maturity years ago, and this has led to a phase of normality. With this stability and solidity, we have been able to address the security challenges that we have been faced with. The most evident case is the administering of the 17th August in Barcelona and Cambrils. We have many other challenges: transit, anti-social behaviour, second activities, etc., and other important and transcending issues that we will solve with awareness and professionalism.

How do you think the policing system should be articulated in Catalonia?

That’s a good question! It could be answered in different ways, it all depends on the strategic development that we decide on, or that we decide on politically. The question is: “Where do we want to go?” I think that we, as police officers, have a lot to say. There are a few of us, those who have lived through this process of development of the Mossos and local police forces. We can refer to two laws, that of 1991 applying to local police forces and that of 1994 applying to the Mossos d’Esquadra, and the public security system of Catalonia law (2003), within the framework of the statute of autonomy.

Personally, I think that we should transcend, improve on the current model, starting with the good work that that has already been done by the Institute of Public Security of Catalonia (ISPC) with basic joint training and courses in command and specialities. Now there is a need to define the same selection criteria for police officers and commanding officers. Selection and training ought to be the responsibility of the ISPC. We draw on the premise of basic officers with the same values, attitudes and aptitudes. Once the course is passed and with the police qualification or that of commanding officer, they can opt for any local police officer position that, with a final interview to confirm suitability, could enable them to apply for the vacancy or to the municipality that they desire and, after a practice period, they will have a permanent position. It would be necessary to create a gateway system from one force to the other. From local police officer to local police officer and from local police officer to Mossos d’Esquadra and vice versa, with a career plan with specialities and categories and that allows for the mobility of government workers, with a minimum system of permanence and some reservations for specialities.

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