World

Catalan police face their 
own question of independence

BARCELONA: Catalonia's homegrown police force faces a dilemma - obey caretaker bosses imposed by Madrid, or stay loyal to the now-deposed regional government?

As Spain imposes direct rule on the semi-autonomous region after an independence declaration by Catalan lawmakers, with its interior ministry taking control of the Mossos d'Esquadra, the force's roughly 16,000 members are in turmoil.

TENSION

"There's a lot of tension. There is a lot of fear and anxiety in the entire force, regardless of whether people back independence or oppose it - as in my case," Mr Vicente, a Mossos officer who declined to give his real name, told AFP.

"The force is split pretty much down the middle," added Mr Manel, a colleague with over a decade of experience who would also not be fully identified. "Some are delighted that Madrid takes control, but others are worried."

Said Mr Vicente: "The atmosphere is difficult, there are arguments, shouting, very tense situations between colleagues."

Besides the Mossos, the only armed force that fell directly under the region's control before it was taken over, some 6,000 members of the national police are based permanently in Catalonia. In an internal circular, the Mossos police command has called on its agents to stay neutral, which the interior ministry said was "a good sign".

But doubt has infiltrated the ranks. "The majority of officers won't be affected, but riot police will feel it most," said a Mossos officer, wishing to remain anonymous. "In situations where before they might have been told to 'Hang on', perhaps now they will be told to 'Charge'," he reflected.

Still, some officers are not sure how it will all play out.

Said Mr Manel: "If we start to get extreme orders for police to confront people, many agents will hesitate to implement them." - AFP

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