The Quality Management System improves the guarantee of the rights and safety of the detainee, incorporating controls and records of all actions undertaken, while also guaranteeing the personal and legal safety of those responsible for the arrests.
The System lays down procedures and controls for the various actions that the police officers involved in the arrest of a person must undertake, from the moment they detect that an offence has been committed and the alleged perpetrator is detained until such time as the detainee is brought before the judicial authorities, including transfers, custody at police premises, preparation and processing of procedural steps, feeding, the detainee's psycho-physical condition, etc.
In addition to guaranteeing compliance with the current legislation, the System provides safeguards over and above the existing ones, through the self-imposition of a working procedure that offers maximum guarantees to citizens.
The System has been in force at the Bilbao Police Station since the year 2001, and at all the police stations of the Ertzaintza since 2003. The first certification was achieved in 2002 and the latest renewal was done in 2008.
Guarantees and commitments undertaken:
The arrest of a person involves the limitation of one of the fundamental and inherent rights of humans in a democratic framework, namely freedom. Therefore, pursuant to the criteria provided for in Law, along with the fulfilment of the duty to arrest is the duty to guarantee the rights of the detainee, in accordance with the provisions of Act 4/1992 of 17 July concerning the Police Force of the Basque Country. Under the section concerning its deontological code, article 36 of the said Act states that: "The members of the Police Force of the Basque Country shall watch over the life and physical integrity of the persons they arrest or those who are in their custody, and shall respect their honour and dignity and maintain and uphold their legal rights".
To ensure this, the System includes a number of safeguards and self-imposed commitments, as it is understood that all the actions involved in the arrest of a person constitute a critical point in the dynamics of the relationship between the Ertzaintza and the citizens.
Among the most recent requirements or commitments undertaken we mention:
- The Protocol for the co-ordination of assistance to detainees held incommunicado.
- The forensic medical Protocol of the Basque Institute of Legal Medicine (IVML).
- The Service of assistance to relatives of detainees held incommunicado.
- The detainee video recording system, which includes communal spaces in the detention cell area.
- The recording of the interrogations of detainees held incommunicado.
Both the Quality System and the Protocols have been submitted to the European Committee for the Prevention of torture.
They have also been mentioned in several reports, such as the Amnesty International Report 2008, which states that "Amnesty International welcomes positive steps taken by the autonomous regional police force of the Basque Country (Ertzaintza) including the introduction of "quality control" mechanisms during detention (consisting of detailed procedures which are closely monitored) and video-recording of large parts of police stations"."The Ertzaintza also operates a "quality control" regulatory system which gives detainees the opportunity to complete confidential questionnaires regarding their experience in custody. Any breach of the quality standards is investigated".
In October 2005, an automated digital video-recording system was introduced in all Ertzaintza Police Stations, that detects and records movement of persons 24 hours a day during the stay of detainees at police premises, with no possibility to disconnect the cameras or interrupt the recording.
The cameras installed are positioned so as to cover and record all areas used for the movement of detainees in the cell areas (entrance area, exit area and corridors of the cell areas).
The computer equipment that controls the video-recording system is housed in a cabinet and access is restricted to authorised personnel. The equipment stores images in the hard disk, with a backup copy of the recordings also being made.
Specific procedures and instructions of the arrest process:
As previously mentioned, some common procedures exist for all processes and other specific procedures apply to the process in question. Some procedures specific to the arrest process are.
Arrest process control.This procedure describes the method to follow in the implementation of the arrest process with a view to ensuring compliance with all the requirements in all arrests made.
The Treatment of externally originated arrests , which describes the method to be used to regulate police actions in cases where the arrest process is originated externally to the Ertzaintza, such as for example, a judicial Arrest Warrant.
The Evaluation of the level of satisfaction, of the parties involved, this procedure is used to gather information from detainees and their lawyers regarding police actions in order to:
• Analyse the evolution over time of the levels of global satisfaction with the response provided by the Ertzaintza in the arrest process.
• Analyse the level of satisfaction with those aspects of the arrest process which may be evaluated by means of a survey.
• Detect areas for improvement proposed by the interested parties and implement the relevant action plans.
• Disseminate such levels to the entire organisation.
The operational instructions develop aspects relating to Internal triggers, i.e., arrests made by police officers as a result of a crime or offence at the time of this being committed (in fraganti) or an investigation, the Actual physical arrest for all arrests made, the method for the Transfer of detainees, actions relating to Admission into custody at police station, reading and exercise of detainee rights, and the records entered into the Custody Record, the method for conducting the Body search so as to ensure the safety of police officers, of the detainee and of third persons, as well as the seizure of property detainees have with them which may be used as evidence, aspects related to Assistance of counsel for detainee in order to guarantee the right to assistance of counsel, Notification of arrest to a relative or person of choice, informing them of the arrest and detention and the place of custody, the guarantee of Medical assistance for the detainee and prescribed medication where so required by detainee, Request for a writ of Habeas Corpus and the Right of active suffrage for detainees.
Others such as the basic content for the Completion of the record of appearance of the Ertzaintza officers, Taking of detainee's statement, method for completing Police records and collection of samples from detainees, Police lineups, Notification of the detention to the judicial authority and the End of arrest, end of police record, and closing of the custody record.
The instructions also specify all the actions that must be undertaken during the custody of the detainee on police premises, actions to be undertaken under Special circumstances according to the Law, with a special section on Minors.
There is also an instruction detailing the meal service for detainees and issues related to personal hygiene.