Staff reporter
THE Balearic minister of the interior, José María Rodríguez, yesterday informed Parliament of the nature of the present government's tourist police force policy, which will serve to offer “more information and better security” to visitors. Improvements in this area will be 75% government financed. Rodríguez, who is also head of the civil service on the Islands, was responding to a question from a Socialist deputy, Antonio Diéguez, who had asked for clarification on the ruling Popular Party's plans for a tourist police force. The Interior minister answered that the police will form an integral part of municipal police forces, reinforcing the service for the season.
They will be on duty for nine months of the year, but 2004 will be limited to six months due to shortage of administration time.
Rodríguez furthermore announced that the tourist police force would help “municipalities that are full to bursting” during the summer season on issues of security, as well as improving availability of information and attention to foreign visitors. The abilities demanded from members of this back-up force, will be the same as those appreciated in local officers, including knowledge of a foreign language, preferably English or German. Rodríguez also said that the intention of his ministry during the last quarter of this year, is to open the way for job applications in the tourist police and once all the places for 2004 have been filled, begin the training courses at the end of January next year. He also explained that the numbers of tourist police in each locality will not be able to exceed 50 percent of the area's allocation of officers.
The minister detailed that 100 positions assigned to the tourist police will be created each year, with the objective that at the end of this government's four-year term of office, all local town council needs on the Islands will be covered. Tourist police will dress identically to local police, with a distinguishing badge, and their integration into the police units, as with their training, will be 75 percent government financed. But Diéguez challenged the plans, exchanging harsh words with Rodríguez. The Socialist deputy said that the tourist police would only be “tourist guides” and predicted that there would be no marked improvement in security. He also criticised the period of employment.
Diéguez reproached the minister for differentiating between the Islands' localities in terms of “my areas and your areas”. Rodríguez rejected the insinuation as a demonstration of “contempt”, saying that he, Rodríguez, had only used those terms in reference to the political parties that govern the town councils. Diéguez dismissed the tourist police project as a “publicity stunt” with a high turnover in newly created jobs. “The solution to security problems that the Popular Party proposes is one of short-term jobs”.
The tourist police proposal was also criticised by spokesmen for the United Left/Green Party coalition, Miquel Rosselló; and Pere Sampol, representing the Majorcan Socialist/Nationalist coalition. They moved that instead of the tourist police suggested by the Popular Party, a regional police force should be created, although this would mean a change to the autonomy statutes.


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