Armed Forces and Police reach historic ‘mixed patrols’ agreement

An historic agreement forged this week will see military forces integrating within police patrols “in cases of extreme threat to public safety”.

Diário de Notícias has broken the news, explaining that it follows a year of complex negotiations.

“Defined rules” allow for the military to act under the “operational direction of the person in charge of the security force who is commanding the operation, via a liaison element of the Armed Forces”.

The intervention would have a “definite period of time” and only go ahead “when the security force does not have the necessary means of response”.

‘Mixed patrols’ are already used in other European countries, particularly France and Belgium – where there have been heightened terrorist threats, explains DN, adding that these police/ army collaborations “have raised some issues”.

But the plan – approved by anti-terrorist unit UCAT on Tuesday, essentially sets out to “strengthen military collaboration in internal security”.

The agreement has taken into account the fact that the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic (Article 275) limits military intervention in national territory to cases of ‘state of siege or emergency’ – “declared in situations of ‘actual or imminent aggression’ by foreign forces”, and times when “there is serious threat or disturbance to democratic order or risk of public calamity”.

DN stresses a plan with these objectives was “on the table” almost a decade ago, but opposition from military chiefs and the then minister of Defence Augusto Santos Silva (currently Minister of Foreign Minister) saw it consigned to the back-burner.

The formal signing of this agreement has not yet been given a date, but DN says the government will want to give it “maximum promotion”.

Key in reaching agreement have been Helena Fazenda, secretary general of internal security system SSI and Silva Ribeiro, major general of the Armed Forces.

Says DN this is the second major agreement secured during Silva Ribeiro’s tenure – the first having been signed in December, strengthening military cooperation with the secret services.

At the time, the paper explained that the agreement would have three practical effects: information services would ‘support the military in preparing international missions’; the military would share relevant information recovered on the ground, and secret services would ‘coordinate academic training’ for the military at IUM (the military university institute in Lisbon).

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