Madrid, Spain

On the Front Lines of Integration

Policía de Fuenlabrada

November 9, 2010

Creating confidence in community policing through consultation and local recruitment

Police play a unique role in society that requires that they understand the needs and opinions of the community they serve and protect.

When the community trusts and respects the police force, it makes the relationship stronger and more effective for both.

In the district of Fuenlabrada, on the outskirts of Madrid, the local police service is actively working to incorporate these principles into practical measures that will increase social cohesion and trust.

Located just 20 km south of Madrid, Fuenlabrada has a young population of 205,000 that is reflective of the rapid demographic change in the area. Over 30.4% of the population is under 25 and over 16% of the population is made up of non-Spanish nationals. The largest groups of immigrants come from Morocco, Ecuador and Romania.

Between 2000 and 2005 the population of newcomers to the region more than tripled. City leaders realized that to create a positive environment for immigrant integration and to reduce discrimination, more needed to be done.

With the support of municipal delegations, the Madrid City Council launched a master Plan for Social and Intercultural Co-Existence. The plan was recently renewed (and will now run from 2009-2012).

It was the involvement of community organizations like the police that helped to make this Plan into a reality.

The police: the front lines of integration

The Fuenlabrada Police have long-recognized that public agencies should reflect the communities they serve. They have developed a proactive approach that works internally to increase diversity, and externally to build community relations.

Building on existing initiatives to recruit women into policing, the force now offers free training to minorities and the children of minorities who are interested in joining the Fuenlabrada Police services (and who meet the basic eligibility requirements).

Internally, the force supports this outreach by offering cultural awareness and diversity training to all its officers.

To increase community trust and build relations with diverse communities, the Fuenlabrada Police provide information sessions on understanding Spanish law and legal process to help newcomers appreciate both their rights and obligations. To ensure that their approach would be both effective and meaningful, the Fuenlabrada Police also created a community forum convened with representation from rights organizations, religious groups and diverse communities.

This evolved into a monthly consultative forum that allows the police to check in regularly with the community to identify emerging issues and discuss ongoing concerns such as how to standardize community policing procedures to minimize discrimination.

To increase awareness of these efforts, the police have also made this information available in Romanian, Arabic, English and Spanish, and rolled it into a larger multi-language public information campaign aimed at helping citizens understand their rights.

From local to global

In June 2010, the success of these community consultations resulted in the launch of a Manifesto for the Police Management of Diversity by the Fundación Secretaria do Gitano, the Fundación Pluralismo y Convivencia, the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Unión Nacional de Jefes y Directivos de Policía Local (Unijepol); with the participation of Amnesty International as an observer organization. The Manifesto establishes recommendations for positive actions to help police services reflect the diversity of the society they serve while promoting public safety

In addition, the signatory organisations have agreed to create a Platform for the Police Management of Diversity  which will be open to any community agency interested in helping local police authorities become more open and responsive to Madrid’s diverse society, and ensuring its most vulnerable minority groups receive equal treatment from the police.

The actions of the Fuenlabrada Police are now part of a larger global initiative. Across Spain participants include the Local Police of Girona, the Catalan police, the Police School of Catalonia and the Local Police Academy of the Community of Madrid. The UK Ministry of the Interior is also involved, as are the London Metropolitan Police, the Police in Leicester County, the National Police and police Academy of Hungary and the Ministry of Interior.

Making it Work for You:

  • Information sessions on understanding local law and legal process help newcomers appreciate both their rights and their obligations.
  • Effective community awareness campaigns involve more than one agency, and are the result of wide community consultation. What has your organization done to reach out to the various stakeholders in your community?
  • Before launching a new program or service, test your ideas with a wide cross-section of community members to ensure your approach will be effective.
  • Publicize and acknowledge good practices, and positive actions and outcomes.
  • Building trust in local communities increases the effectiveness of local programmes and services, and increased confidence and job satisfaction in the service provider.