THE PORTUGUESE Ministry of Internal Administration is to open new Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP) and Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) police stations in a bid to bring patrolling to residential areas.
The about-turn comes after a series of violent murders and gang-land attacks in Porto, Lisbon and other Portuguese cities in the past 12 months.
Minister of Internal Administration Rui Pereira promised on Tuesday that the government would also maintain existing police force structures as part of its ‘Patrolling the Streets Policy’ (Policiamento de Proximidade).
The Ministry has now decided to suspend its planned closure of 110 GNR posts throughout the country which had formed part of a cost-cutting and efficiency drive in the nation’s police forces. There are approximately 20,000 GNR officers.
Portugal has various layers of policing including the GNR which comprises the road traffic police (Brigada Fiscal de Trânsito) and policing in rural and small metropolitan areas, the PSP which patrols larger urban centres such as Lisbon and Porto and has 21,000 agents across Portugal, the Polícia Judiciária which is Portugal’s investigative CID branch, and the Lisbon Câmara police force (Polícia Municipal de Lisboa).
The rationalisation measure, which aimed at amalgamating GNR and PSP services where they overlapped, had been expected to begin in January but has been abandoned after strong opposition from the GNR.
The policy to close GNR stations, cutting 1,000 policemen, planned in 2006 by the then Minister of Internal Administration António Costa (now President of Lisbon Câmara) would have reduced the police presence in many small outlying areas in the interior of Portugal – a measure also opposed by local parish councils and community groups.
The GNR Police Force Association (Associação dos Profissionais da Guarda) publicly demonstrated against the idea claiming it would put an end to grass-roots rural and community policing.
“The government’s programme isn’t about shutting down police stations, rather keeping them open and opening up new ones in a bid to reinforce the public’s sense of security,” said Rui Pereira.
The Minister also reminded journalists at the 141st anniversary of the PSP in Lisbon that he had stated in parliament six months ago that “there wouldn’t be closures” because it didn’t make sense to do so.
On the other hand, some organisations such as the Independent Social-Professional Guard Association (ASPIG) have argued that it doesn’t make sense manning a station with six to nine police officers when they could be out on the beat where they are most useful and needed – patrolling residential and outlying areas.
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