Between 5,000-8,000 police officers from all over Spain marched through Madrid on Saturday, protesting austerity measures and cuts. They even apologized to the public for arresting the wrong people.
Protesting against the government's austerity measures, which includes frozen pensions and the elimination of Christmas bonuses, the demonstration was called by the nation's main policing union.
Numbers are estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000 officers (depending on the media) from all branches of the Spanish police.
The Spanish government has imposed harsh spending cuts, which are aimed at saving around 150 billion euros between 2012 and 2014. The cuts have been met with anger and protests by thousands of Spanish citizens, and now the police are joining them in their anger.
Blowing whistles and chanting slogans, they marched through the city center to the Ministry of the Interior. One of the banners they carried read: "Citizens! Forgive us for not arresting those truly responsible for this crisis: bankers and politicians."
Citizens! Forgive us for not arresting those truly responsible for this crisis: bankers and politicians.
33-year-old police officer Antonio Perez told AP, "The problem is they take from us to give to others, like the autonomous regions and the banks."
But it's not just about money. Jose Maria Benito, a spokesman for Spain's Unified Police Union, said that the cuts will affect the security of the country. He said that working conditions have become more precarious and equipment used was no longer up to standard.
Benito told AP, “We are here to tell the government that security has to be its priority…in socially convulsive times, we need an adequate police response,” adding that 15,000 workers who have left the force were not going to be replaced.
On that point, in a speech, the Union's general secretary, Jose Maria Sanchez Fornet said that "Each year, between 1,500 and 2,000 police officers retire and 125 are recruited, which means in three or four years, there will be more insecurity and crime in Spain."
General Secretary of the Trade Union SIPE, Alfredo Perdiguero, said that never before in the history of Spain had the police suffered "so many cuts and setbacks".
"The police have a difficult job and the government mistreats us with lack of legal support, low wages and contempt," he said.
President of the European Organization Eurocop, Ana Nellberg, shares the demands of the Spanish officers and has assured them that police officers from all over Europe are suffering the same situation. "A disillusioned cop who is not properly funded and paid cannot offer to the people or the government the protection they need and are entitled to. The alternative is chaos." Nellberg warned.
The protest by the police officers comes in the wake of the general strike against austerity in Spain and other countries in Europe.