The congressional interior committee on Tuesday approved a bill granting authorized private-sector security personnel some of the same powers as the police, such as the right to arrest people.
The thrust of the proposed new legislation is in response to the need “to qualify the general principle of excluding private security from acting in public places, which in its current form is excessively rigid and has made more difficult or impeded the necessary authorization of services to the benefit of the public.”
The bill was approved by the ruling conservative Popular Party and by the center-right nationalist Catalan and Basque groups, CiU and PNV respectively, and will now go to the Senate for consideration. The new legislation was vigorously opposed by the main opposition Socialist Party and the United Left (IU).
Under the bill, private-security services with enhanced powers — such as the right to ask people to identify themselves and to detain them — will be allowed in certain situations and circumstances, such as at bank cash machines, at sporting and cultural events, or any event “of social importance” held in public places and thoroughfares.
The legislation also allows private security guards to pursue in public places “delinquents caught in the act of committing a crime even in cases where [the crime] has nothing to do with the people or goods that they are watching over and protecting.” The bill also covers areas outside of prisons and alien detention centers.
The legislation comes on top of the controversial planned Citizens Security Law, which will see hefty fines for citizens who take part in unauthorized protests or who cover up their faces at demonstrations. The bill has been heavily criticized as restricting fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.