The Police Force from the Basque Country is Ertzaintza.

Distribution per sexes in Ertzaintzadistribucion-por-sexo-ing

The female presence in the Ertzaintza is bigger than in the majority of the State police forces.

This percentage has increased in the last promotions.

Despite this fact, female representation is still far below the figure registered in other European police forces.

 What is Ekinbide?

The Citizens’ Initiative Office for the improvement of the public security system, Ekinbide, is the service responsible for receiving, reviewing and responding to complaints, comments and suggestions for improving the public security system in the Basque Country and the services that it provides to citizens, in order to improve the quality of and confidence in these services.

ekinbideIts area of competence is the set of actions, services and ‘deliverables’ provided by the public security system bodies and services in the Basque country:

  1. The authorities with competences in the field of public security, as well as competences in public security, emergencies and civil protection.
  2. The police forces of the Basque Country, as well as local policemen and traffic wardens employed by the municipalities.
  3. The emergency and civil protection services, emergency coordination centres, fire prevention, fire-fighting and rescue services and other members of the Basque emergency care and civil protection system.
  4. The coordinating, advisory and participation bodies in the field of public security


A historical right

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.

Understanding the Quality Management System

The aim of the Quality Management System, in this case, the one implemented by the Ertzaintza, is to ensure that the treatment provided or action taken by the different officers involved in a process is always the same, regardless of the recipient of those services, their specific providers, together with the place where they are dispensed. Standardising and normalising the services and actions, together with fostering their improvement and guaranteeing the satisfaction of the recipients would be the tenets of the ISO 9001:2008 quality standard. Click here for further information on this quality standard.

Naturally, the sought-after service standard is of the highest level, always exceeding the minimums required by the different legislation and regulations.

Once this idea has been launched, and given that the Ertzaintza’s work is to provide overall support and service for the general public, the decision was taken for certification within the quality management system of some specific processes, chosen for their key importance within police work.

The processes involved in the system, currently, are as follows:

  • Arrest process
  • Procedure implemented in cases of gender and domestic violence
  • Explosive Deactivation Unit procedures
  • Forensic Science Unit procedures

The following quality management tools envisaged in the ISO 9001 standards stand out in the case of the Ertzaintza:

  • The quality policy
  • Managing the documentation of the system
  • Monitoring and control mechanisms


  • Control plans
  • Preventive and corrective actions
  • Internal audits
  • Managing suppliers
  • Permanent Commissions


  • External audits
  • Grievances, complaints and claims
  • Satisfaction surveys

Quality management within the Ertzaintza is no mere certification endorsed by AENOR, but rather is a verifiable reflection of a continuous improvement spirit and of a desire to always provide the best possible service to the general public. Furthermore, it is not a watertight system, but rather it is connected to the many officers involved: from those service providers under the control of the quality system, to, for example the personal ratings awarded by the lawyers that deal with the people under arrest, which results in a clear benefit for society overall.

Distribution by Ranks and Categories

The pyramid making up the Basque Police structure as to Ranks and Categories shows the uncompleted evolution of this police institution which took its first steps from the Basic Scale and in which the internal promotion has not covered the higher commanding ranks yet.