The Lisbon police - or Civil Guard, as they are called here - have taken their share of their criticism since the April coup.
The Lisbon police - or Civil Guard, as they are called here - have taken their share of their criticism since the April coup. The police claim that the current state of unrest here in Portugal has made their job all that more difficult. Stories of police being called "Fascist" while merely trying to do their duty are rife in this city, but the police say that such lables are unwarranted. They are, they say, only doing their duty. Nevertheless, since the April changeover, most high-ranking officers have been given instructions to change their public image - get out more among the people, foster the helping hand image etc.
The crime rate in Lisbon has not risen alarmingly since April as some reporters have suggested. It's true, according to police spokesmen, that a slight increases has been noted in the number of cars stolen, but this is something which Portugal is infamous for anyway. Stolen cars have a good market value in a country where registration rules are lax. These laws will be changed, thus making it more difficult in future to convert a car or two.
Lisbon's police force numbers only about 3,000 - and that's to serve a population of more than a million. Their methods, when compared with other European countries, are somewhat primitive, but again the police here say this is due to lack of Government money to update equipment. Their central radio control, for instance, operates 24 hours a day and is connected up to an intricate system of automatic alarms which operate in banks, office buildings and various private concerns. But it is outdated - one the day this film was shot there was an early morning bank alarm. The radio controller ordered one patrol car into the area, but there was no confirmation that the car was on the way - apparently the driver and his partner were hashing coffee and did not hear the radio call for some 10 minutes. There was no attempt to get another war to the scene of the suspected crime.
Their mobile patrols operate in elderly Morris Oxfords - desil. It's Not common practise to let the petrol just cruse around. Rather, they sit still and move only when they are ordered. When an alarm is raised, like the one filmed from the car (and then repeated for camera's benefit after lost loop on first real call) it takes a few minutes to get the car going, and even longer to get there. This instance was a robbery alarm, but turned out to be false.
The police carry sidearms (Italian Berettas) and each patrol can is equipped with an additional automatic pistol.
Recruiting for Lisbon's police force has dropped since April, but the standard still remains high nevertheless - out of the least group of 300 men, 65 were selected and given intensive training. Usually lasts 3-4 months before the graduate is placed on patrol with an experienced officer. Takes about two years to fully qualify. But recruiting has dropped a little in past few months, and armed forces officers are now trying to attract ex-army and navy men into the police force.