The origins of the current Ertzaintza as a police force of the Basque Country can be traced back to the old municipal militias. The first permanent police corps of a professional nature were created in the 19th century as a response to the banditry caused by the continuous social and political upheaval. The decisive argument for its configuration was the First Carlist War, when the Mikeletes of Biscay and Gipuzkoa and the Miñones of Araba commenced their activities.
After the war, the Spanish government attempted to recover the functions carried out by these regional forces and transfer them to the Civil Guard.
The end of the Second Carlist War led to a reduction of personnel and operational capabilities of the regional police forces, which nevertheless continued to exist and were able to carry out their tasks.
On 1 October 1936, the Basque Statute of Autonomy came into force, leading to the establishment of an autonomous Government. One of the priorities of the new government on the back of the recently started civil war was public order.
The Basque Department of the Interior set up the basis for several institutions such as the International Police Force, the Maritime Police Force and the Public Order Corps. However, the main public security measure taken was undoubtedly the creation of a police force named Ertzaña, with foot and motorised (Igiletua) divisions, totalling joint forces of around 1,500 officers.
When the war concluded, the Ertzaña was dissolved, however no legal provisions reflect this dissolution, as Franco's regime pretended that this institution had never existed in the first place.
With the dissolution of the Ertzaña and the police forces of Biscay and Gipuzkoa, the police corps of Araba and Nafarroa remained the last vestige of what once were the regional forces of the Basque Country.
Forty years on, after democracy had been restored, the Department of the Interior of the Basque Government took up the spirit of the Ertzaña of 1936 to design, in 1980, the new autonomous police force of the Basque Country, the Ertzaintza. A Royal Decree re-established the Forales and Mikeletes in Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, and gave a new organisational structure to the Miñones corps in Araba. These institutions were incorporated into the new Basque Police Force. The regional police forces are therefore the regulatory basis for the present-day Ertzaintza.
This new police force grew steadily since 1982 and was progressively deployed throughout the entire Autonomous Community of the Basque Country to take on responsibilities across the entire territory in 1995, replacing the various Spanish police forces. Up to twenty-one classes of police officers trained to perform a full range of police roles have graduated from the Police Academy of the Basque Country in Arkaute in all these years. The deployment began with the roles of protection of institutions and traffic control and management, and went on to progressively take on the role of citizen security throughout the entire territory, being deemed completed in September 1995 when it finally reached Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Currently, the Ertzaintza boasts a staff of 8,000 officers divided into two divisions, each specialising in specific police tasks. A team of professionals whose mission is to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens and guarantee their security against all types of crime.
Deployment of the Ertzaintza
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