Interview with Commissioner of the Royal Gibraltar Police, Ian McGrail
“Whatever Brexit brings, I hope that the professionals will be allowed to do our work, if not the criminals will win”
A firm believer of trans-frontier police cooperation, McGrail recognizes that Gibraltar is a very safe community and a model of coexistence, even though it has its challenges.
The first modern police force to have emerged within the Commonwealth following London’s, the Royal Gibraltar Police force (RGP), was founded in 1830, only a few months after the London Metropolitan Police was set up.
The RGP has a complement of 246 officers in separate departments; Prosecution, Narcotics, Scientific Police, Technological Crimes, Traffic, Neighbourhood Police, Maritime Section, Support Division and Information and Intelligence.
Ian McGrail has been the Commissioner of the RGP for a year.
Born on the Rock and with more than 30 years of experience in the force, he recognizes that Gibraltar is a safe community although he is well aware of the challenges it is currently facing.
Crime rates in Gibraltar are very low in relation to other locations in the region, despite being in a geostrategic area. It has a port, an airport, a border, a financial centre and UK defence facilities.
So, McGrail is reasonably cautious: “We are not immune to what can happen anywhere else, more so considering this area. In addition, where there are financial centres there is always associated crime, as is true of cities like Madrid or London.” Gender violence has increased, although not as tragically as in Spain.
In fact, the most serious crime recently that occurred in Gibraltar was the murder of a woman by her husband.
The RGP supports Customs in Gibraltar in the fight against tobacco smuggling: “It is a Customs function, but we provide support. We have storage rooms full of tobacco that we eliminate annually, but they’re always full at the end of the year. The tobacco seizures are constant.”
In recent weeks, the RGP made headlines for its collaboration with the Security Forces of Spain in the arrest and return of alleged drug traffickers. A vocation of public service and the will to collaborate fit in line with a well-established system cooperation.
“Our collaboration with the Security Forces of Spain dates back many years and continues to be maintained. A police officer is a police officer, wherever he may be. A border should not be an obstacle for collaboration. I have officers who testify in the Spanish courts with regards to crimes committed in Spain, because they require our witness evidence. I would like this to be reciprocated. This has not happened yet, but I have not lost faith,” he acknowledges.
Of course, he is a firm believer in maintaining good relations with the commands of the corps and Security Forces of Spain in the Campo de Gibraltar.
Brexit is perhaps the most important challenge: “Whatever Brexit brings, I hope that the politicians on both sides of the frontier allow the police to do our work because, if not, the criminals will win. I ask that they let us continue collaborating in a fluid and effective manner.” In this sense, he also highlights the harmony between police officers on both sides.
“A police officer is a police officer, wherever he or she may be. Mutual respect is evident. I hope, I ask, I pray for it to be maintained because our goal continues to be the same,” he says. This collaboration with Spanish authorities also exists at sea, despite the well-known disputes over the sovereignty of the waters surrounding the Rock.
“Collaboration exists, with some agencies more than with others, but it exists. In fact, the two cases my Officers will testify to in the courts of Algeciras are for persecutions at sea,” he tells us.
He welcomes the fact that private speedboats have been banned in Spain, a measure that was adopted in Gibraltar in 1995. He assures us this is a great improvement.
Another threat to be confronted is terrorism, something unthinkable in a community that is a model example for the coexistence between Catholics, Protestants, Jews ,Muslims, and Hindus.
“These days, nobody can be completely safe. We are a great example and yet, it is still possible that an outsider could break this climate or stir things up. We take this matter very seriously and Police, Customs, Immigration and Defense Agencies are all working together as a unit,” he says.
Economic crime is a threat which has to be controlled “because it greatly affects victims and because we have to maintain the reputation of our financial centre.”