Worrying violence against the police
BarcelonaThe data from the Catalan local forces are unequivocal: the pandemic, and above all the months of lockdowns and curfew, has left a trace of distrust and loss of respect for authority that has resulted in a considerable increase in violent attacks against uniformed agents. With respect to 2019 (the last normal year), crimes against authority and disobedience have more than doubled. This violence, moreover, does not occur in contexts of political vindication such as the protests against the sentencing of the Independence bid leaders, but oftentimes occurs in a festive atmosphere such as street parties.
Officers on the street explain episodes such as attempted assaults, the looting of an ambulance or even the theft of a police officer's weapon while he was intervening in a fight in the street. What the experts see behind this is the expression of a malaise, especially among young people, which is now surfacing after two years of severe restrictions on mobility and the possibilities of having social relations. The pandemic forced us to live in a police state such as we had not known since the Franco regime, with night-time curfews and a ban on leaving certain areas, which led to strong social unrest.
Although the restrictions were justified by the health crisis, the obligation to enforce them fell on the police, who suddenly found themselves playing a role for which they had not been prepared, which in some cases led to overreach. Even so, with the return to normality, the police have seen how animosity against them has increased and they face unprecedented violence and hostility.
As we have said, this malaise is basically due to the pandemic, but we will also have to analyse the other factors that explain it. And above all it will be necessary to devise strategies and take action to tackle a worrying phenomenon. The police needs to recover its lost authority, and this is a shared responsibility between the public and the institutions. It is not so much a question of inculcating a reverential respect for authority as of understanding that when the police act it is because coexistence is being endangered, for example in the cases of street parties.
Along with this, it is also necessary to demand that the so-called gag law, which was promoted by the PP to stop protests against cuts and which Pedro Sánchez's government has promised to reform in order to eliminate authoritarian tics. Because respect for authority cannot be based only on the fear of being charged or on the use of force, but has to be a social pact between citizens and the police, which has to act in a scrupulously democratic way and sanction any abuse of authority or power. Major Josep Lluís Trapero must be listened to when he wonders what is so revolutionary about throwing a stone at an officer and when he asks for the support of the Catalan government. In the same way, however, the body has to practice zero tolerance with police abuses.