Catalan Police to be directed by a person associated with the opposition Socialist Party (PSC)
Albert Batlle, in charge of Catalonia's prison network during the former left-wing Cabinet (2003-2010), has been appointed the new Director General of the Catalan Police Force, called Mossos d'Esquadra. The Catalan Government, run by the Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition (CiU), appointed Batlle on Tuesday, emphasising he is "an independent person", "with experience". Batlle is a former member of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is part of opposition in the Catalan Parliament. He will have the challenge to direct the Mossos d'Esquadra after years of controversy linked to the police's use of force. The Catalan Minister for Home Affairs, Ramon Espadaler, asked him "to guide police action" and "to introduce a degree of common sense and calm". Batlle earned prestige as a manager of complex issues and he was one of the key people in the organisation of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
Barcelona (ACN).- Albert Batlle, who was in charge of Catalonia's prison network during the former left-wing Cabinet (2003-2011), has been appointed the new Director General of the Catalan Police Force, called Mossos d'Esquadra. The Catalan Government, run by the Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition (CiU), appointed Batlle on Tuesday. The Catalan Minister for the Presidency and Spokesperson for the Executive, Francesc Homs, emphasised that Batlle is "an independent person", "with experience" in the field of security and "very loyal to the institution". The new Mossos d'Esquadra Director is a former member of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is one of the main opposition groups in the Catalan Parliament. However he quit the party and he has been working as Deputy Director of Catalonia's Anti-Fraud Office since 2011. Now, he will have the challenge to direct the Mossos d'Esquadra, after years of controversy linked to the use of force by police. The former General Director, Manel Prat, resigned two weeks ago, in the middle of anarchist riots in Barcelona's Sants neighbourhood and after a judge stated that a person had lost an eye because of a rubber bullet shot by the Catalan Police during a demonstration in November 2012. This Tuesday, the Catalan Minister for Home Affairs, the Christian-Democrat member of the CiU, Ramon Espadaler, asked Batlle "to guide police action" and "to introduce a degree of common sense and calm". "I am not saying these are not present now, but a change is an opportunity to look forward", added Espadaler. The Catalan Minister also said that Batlle has "a mature profile, with background", "is used to take complicated decisions" and "has an institutional sense [of duty]". However, the main police trade unions emphasised that Batlle has "no police experience", although they wished him all the best for the corps' sake and emphasised he will need "an adaptation time". The trade unions criticised the former management for not providing "necessary explanations" in controversial episodes and they expressed their hope that Batlle will act differently and will protect the Mossos d'Esquadra.
The new Catalan Police Director developed most of his career in Barcelona's City Council, where he worked as Councilman between 1983 and 2003. In this period he gradually earned prestige as a manager of complex teams and issues. He was one of the key people in the organisation of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, which were internationally praised. Later he became the city's Sports Councilman between 1995 and 2003. After the municipal experience, he took office as Deputy Minister for Penitentiary Services, Rehabilitation and Youth Justice within the new three-party left-wing Catalan Government that run Catalonia between December 2003 and December 2010. At that time, when the CiU took office, Batlle was asked to leave his office. In 2011, he was appointed Deputy Director of Catalonia's Anti-Fraud Office, where he has been working until the present announcement.
The Mossos d'Esquadra are in charge of the police work and public order in Catalonia. They are directly managed by the Catalan Government's Ministry of Home Affairs. In the last few years, the Mossos d'Esquadra have been involved in a series of controversies because of isolated actions of the riot police, but also for the poor or confusing explanations given in some specific cases of alleged police brutality. Some of these episodes include people losing an eye for the use of rubber bullets as ammunition to control violent demonstrations, detainees being hit or insulted while being arrested and the death of a few people when they were being arrested. Regarding these last cases, the Mossos were proven to have acted correctly in some of these cases, but in others there remain doubts about their actions. Most of these cases are still under judicial investigation and therefore there are no final conclusions, but several reports and witnesses would point towards a series of bad and even criminal practices made by some police officers. The main problem is that the isolated bad practices of a few individuals taint the overall good work made by the entire Catalan Police Force. However, controversy was intensified when the Mossos d'Esquadra management team gave poor and contradictory explanations regarding some of these unfortunate episodes, which were added to the internal affairs being conducted in a non-transparent way.