On Tuesday, March 31, when the country had been in alarm for two weeks, 4,010 national police officers and 3,412 civil guards were unable to appear at their posts. Those 7,422 agents remained on leave that day as they were infected by coronavirus or having suspicions that they could suffer the disease, which has already claimed the lives of 15 officials from both Corps.
Almost two months later, the data collected by The Independent they reflect that the curve of infected and isolated in the state security forces and bodies has also been flattened, by reducing to 1,672 the number of police and civil guards who remained out of service this Friday by the covid-19. The reduction is 78%. Undoubtedly, carrying out the tests has been essential in reducing the number of quarantined agents: they immediately rejoin the service when the test returns negative.
The data shows the exposure to which the members of the police forces have been subjected since the beginning, a fundamental link in the control of restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles established in the decree that regulated the state of alarm. That is why the representatives have demanded from the outset that they be considered a high-risk group, in order to have quick access to the tests and avoid unwanted infections.
According to the police unions and professional associations of the Civil Guard, many of the infections in the first weeks could have been due to the lack of protective material with which the staff worked. It is the unanimous complaint of all the organizations and that the interior minister refutes. Fernando Grande-Marlaska maintains that the agents have at all times had the “necessary and precise” means to carry out their functions.
The cases of agents in isolation fall with the start of the tests, which allows those who test negative to return to service.
In the case of Civil Guard, the peak of infected was reached at the end of April, when the number reached almost 2,000. As for the number of isolations, on April 2 the figure of 3,000 was exceeded, almost 4% of the members of this Corps. In the National Police, the level of infected was reached on April 19: 824. At the beginning of that month, the largest number of isolated agents was counted with more than 3,300, descending from that moment.
In the Armed Institute, the incidence of the virus has had a much higher incidence, which led the Minister Grande-Marlaska to order an investigation to determine why more cases had been registered in this Corps. More deaths have also been recorded in the Civil Guard (9) than in the Police (6).
“Lack of material and organizational measures”
“In view of the data, it is evident that something has been done worse in the Civil Guard than in the rest of the police forces,” regrets the spokesman for the Unified Association of Civil Guards (AUGC), Juan Fernández. In his opinion, the “lack of material” for protection is compounded by the fact that no other organizational measures have been taken, such as “having appointed services with watertight personnel and checkpoints so that the entire force is not available at the same time.” This, he insists, has caused a “greater number of contagions” in the Corps compared to the National Police, a trend that continues during de-escalation.
Also the Spanish Association of Civil Guards (AEGC) is quick to draw attention to the lack of means with which they have faced this health crisis. Days before being quarantined, the agent Francisco Javier Collado Rivas – assigned to the Herrera de la Mancha (Ciudad Real) penitentiary unit – alerted this professional association to the lack of gloves, disinfectants and masks. Days later he became one of the first deceased of the Corps, which already accumulates nine deaths from coronavirus. “Except for specific problems, today we already have everything,” admits Juan Amado, AEGC spokesman.
The number of those infected in the Civil Guard has been significantly higher than that of the police throughout the crisis: “Something has gotten worse”
“The Occupational Risk Prevention Service has been disappeared at the command level,” complains the vice president of the Association of Non-commissioned Officers of the Civil Guard (ASESGC), Ángel Ramírez. In his opinion, this health crisis has revealed the Corps’ territorial “effectiveness of deployment” and highlights the role of company officers and post commanders in the first few weeks to organize services and avoid infections, as well as to collect of protection material with donations from other administrations and social entities: “The general management itself was clearly overwhelmed.”
From the Union of Civil Guards they consider that the management that has been carried out from the top of the Corps has been “disastrous”. Adding to the lack of protective equipment and massive tests are the “ambiguity” of the orders given to the now to apply the confinement rules and the “lack of protocols” by the Occupational Risk Prevention Service. “It is true that it is a situation that nobody in the world was prepared for, but we must realize that it may happen in the future and we have to be better prepared. Also that the chain of command is clearer in the transmission of orders ”, explains Javier Nodar, state secretary for Institutional Relations of UniónGC.
Deceased in act of service?
From the Asociación Pro Guardia Civil (Aprogc) they show their concern at this time for the “detection of infections”, so they ask that they continue to test massively. This allows early detection of possible cases of contagion and enables the agent to return to service if the test is negative. Like the rest, this organization also requires that all deaths from covid-19 be considered in “act of service”.
The lack of protection means in the first weeks is a complaint shared by all the unions with representation in the Police Council. They also agree on the need for massive tests to minimize the number of infections and, in this way, the operational capacity of the Body is not diminished at a time when its contribution is essential to control compliance with the de-escalation plan by citizens.
Víctor M. Vigil, Secretary General of the Spanish Police Confederation (CEP), identifies a turning point in this crisis around April 20. Until that date, the number of quarantined agents grew continuously. «There was no test and the suspicion of any symptom was positive and the partner was isolated. Only when we urged the General Directorate to carry out tests did things change, “he points out.
Vigil draws attention to the fact that, until the third week of April, “there were some politicians with more access to evidence” than the police, despite the fact that they “work close to the citizen every day”, while advocating that the general management has its own tests so as not to depend on medical companies. “If there are regrowths in the future we would have to have a stock. It is the only solution to quickly isolate the infections and prevent them from spreading among colleagues, as happened in March and early April, “he adds.
Police officers complain that there have been politicians “with more access to evidence” than they, who “work close to the citizen every day”
Pablo Pérez, spokesman for Police Justice (Jupol), influences this idea. The agent requires that all officials who have had “direct contact” with a case confirmed by covid-19 be tested and quarantined so as not to spread the possible infection.
Pérez gives as an example the case of the policemen from the Maspalomas police station, where an immigrant who arrived on the boat on the island last Sunday and who has tested positive was transferred. “Colleagues have been put at risk for not having a clear protocol or an established place for these people to quarantine,” he criticizes.
Means of protection, protocols, testing, cadences in the provision of service and disinfection of buildings and vehicles are some of the requests that the Unified Police Union (SUP) has also been demanding from the management since the health crisis began and they saw the risk officials were exposed to. “Our activity has been extended to the achievement of a work shift for the permanent operational services that lengthens the cadence and makes contagions more difficult, making the work groups more watertight. It is the 6 × 6 shift (six days worked and 6 days off) ”, highlights Mónica Gracia, SUP general secretary.
In the opinion of this organization, it is necessary to prolong this cadence in the provision of the service to try to reduce transmission. “The new normality in the National Police cannot exist until the virus has a treatment in the form of a vaccine and, therefore, the risk we face in interventions on the street and / or with citizens is very high,” adds Gracia.
“Nefarious.” This is how the Federal Police Union (UFP) summarizes the management made by the general management, occupied by Francisco Pardo Piqueras after placing Pedro Sánchez a Grande-Marlaska at the head of the Ministry of the Interior. “There has been a lack of material, it has taken time to start doing the tests, we do not know the reliability of these tests …”, lists José María Benito, spokesperson for this union.
Benedict regrets that not only was he ignored head of the Occupational Risk Prevention service after recommending at the end of January that the police officers who serve at the airport border posts use face masks when contacting passengers from China flights, but rather that they be dismissed, while finding no reason to understand why Health has not cataloged to police and civil guards as risk groups.
For its part, the Professional Police Union (SPP) complains about the “lack of transparency” regarding data on the evolution of the pandemic among Corps officials since the beginning of the crisis, the means of protection that They have supplied between the templates and the quantities and the preventive measures to adopt.
Interior says it has gone “beyond” the recommendations of health authorities to protect its officials and preserve an “essential service”
“It is regrettable that the prevention of occupational risks is not a priority issue for the General Directorate of the Police. We continue without the full implementation of the territorial development, without creating the basic sanitary units, as well as without the necessary implementation, development and financial endowment for a correct viability and effectiveness of the emergency and self-protection plans ”, criticizes Adolfo Medina, SPP spokesman.
Faced with criticism from trade unions and professional associations, the Ministry of the Interior assures that it has been “severe” from the start in adopting measures to protect its officials and that they have even gone “beyond” what the health authorities in an attempt to preserve an “essential service” and to avoid undermining the operational response at a time of greatest need.
“Any agent who has been in contact with a suspected case has been isolated, which has increased the number of people in quarantine. That figure has been decreasing as tests have been carried out, upon rejoining the service if the result was negative, and due to the evolution of the pandemic, “the sources indicate.