Madrid: Civil Society and Police Join Forces to End Discriminatory Stops

RIS and the Open Society Justice Initiative organized a workshop in Madrid to address the implementation of an Effective Police Identification Protocol, a pilot project launched by Madrid City Council.

For the last three months, municipal Police agents have been using stop forms to register identifications in the Ciudad Lineal district of Madrid. Agents fill in documents with the data of the individuals they stop, including their racial profile. This is the first time these measures have been implemented in a large city such as Madrid. They were originally launched in smaller cities and towns such as Fuenlabrada, Castellón and Girona, and are currently being developed in the municipalities of Albacete and Puertollano as well.

Initiative to defend equal treatment of minorities by police

The stop forms are part of an initiative to defend the rights of citizens to equal treatment by the police, and aim to ensure identifications are fair and effective. They reduce discrimination against certain groups and increase police efficiency, as reducing identification procedures for unjustified reasons improves crime prevention and increases security. As stated in a previous article, human rights institutions, including the Ombudsman himself demanded that this measure be implemented.

The particularity of these stop forms is that they collect details regarding how the identifications are made, in order to prevent disproportionate pressure on certain groups. The data that is collected is shared with civil society, which is an exercise of transparency and a step towards a honest dialogue with the law enforcement and security forces.

District residents, citizen rights organisations, the Madrid City Council and the Municipal Police have all taken part in a workshop aimed at laying the foundations for and promoting this dialogue. The workshop focused on the need to include people from the ethnic groups that are most affected by police stop and search initiatives in the debate and to analyse the data collected by this protocol. The objective is to create a climate of trust between the police and ethnic groups, allowing a space for constructive criticism.

Common work spaces and dialogue

During the workshop, police officers and members of organisations worked together in mixed working groups. They discussed the different concerns and challenges posed by the implementation of the protocol. The police force addressed their own reluctance to implement the protocol. They also addressed the fact that tool is seen as essential by individuals and civil society organisations in order to improve the relationship between communities and the police. Concerns included, from a police perspective, that the protocol can be seen as a mechanism to scrutinize and criticize their work. Worries were also voiced that citizens will ignore the actual aim and content of the protocol.

Another important debate revolved around the expectations of the protocol. The collectives that took part in the workshop regarded the project a success in itself and expressed hopes that it will not be limited to Ciudad Lineal but rolled out across Madrid and with other police forces. Civil society organisation asked for new spaces for common work and dialogue where concerns on the protocol can be addressed. It would be especially useful if this was done actively as a continuous security model.