The announced application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to intervene in Catalan institutions puts Mossos d'Esquadra (the Catalan police) between a rock and a hard place. It has escaped nobody's notice that, once the Spanish state's measures are officially confirmed, the head of the Mossos, Josep Lluís Trapero, will be dismissed and substituted for someone nominated by the state.
It's predicted that 155 will lead to the shuffling of some commanders. The most optimistic voices are hoping for a "surgical application" of the article, but have no doubt that Trapero and the core of the General Management will be dismantled. It's ever more probable that Trapero will end up in preventive custody if the public prosecutor moves ahead with the expansion of the lawsuit for the Mossos' inaction during the 1st October referendum. And it's ever less probable that general disobedience by the force will be seen because, as sources within the Mossos say, "disobedience is legitimate but it's not an option for police forces".
Nor do the investigations opened after the 1st October into the acts of some agents during the referendum help. The public prosecutor and the National Audience court have 41 videos of interventions by Mossos on 1st October showing acts like a confrontation between a number of agents and the Civil Guard. The Mossos' General Management argue that these were isolated events, but Internal Affairs ended up opening classified reports on the agents as a result of the pressure coming from Madrid. For this reason, reports are now being opened on agents who worked on 1st October.
The General Management, meanwhile, have taken no official position on what will happen when article 155 is enacted beyond the standard slogan of working following the orders of those in charge.
The worry between commanders and agents is evident.
The union of Mossos' commanders, SICME (Union of the Commanders of the Body of Mossos d'Esquadra), is meeting to decide on an official position towards the situation. Their spokesperson, Francesc Carabassa, is waiting for the meeting before commenting, but admits that they "are worried".
All the unions agree that there is no other option than to obey. "We have no kind of room for manoeuvre", said the spokesperson for the majority union SAP-UGT (Autonomous Community's Union of Police), Valentín Anadón. Toni Castejón, of Sindicat Mossos d'Esquadra (Union of Mossos d'Esquadra), agrees: "The legal framework obliges [us to obey]. There's no margin for disobedience." "Disobeying has consequences", he remarks, giving all the investigations opened after the 1st October as an example. "Everyone knows that their job and salary is at stake."
"We have to obey orders within the law," says David José of Sindicat de Policies de Catalunya (Union of Police of Catalonia). "If the orders don't fit within the law, you have the obligation to not follow them," he adds. "If there's a job that's regulated in every aspect, it's the police," says José. He goes on to repeat that you can't follow orders against the law: "When you're working, this is the only reality that there is".
With autonomy suspended "we're heading into dangerous territory, says SAP, "where there is a wide margin for discretion". Anadón says that "we've always rejected [article] 155, it's a failure of politics and up to the last minute we will call for an agreement". However, now that the article seems imminent, he hopes for "a substitution of few, significant people", not widespread substitution of leaders and agents. He agrees with Castejón in the expectation that article 155 "will affect, above all, the chain of command".
Josep Miquel Milagros of USPAC agrees that "it won't affect the basis of the force" but considers it certain that "some will disobey", although he believes they will be few and that it will be "something short-term". José also says that he doesn't believe anything will change in their "day-to-day work", work that he notes is "essential for society".
Milagros: "I don't want it [article 155] to be applied. We're a sufficiently professional force and self-sufficient to do our work, which is to police".
What does article 155 foresee?
The Spanish cabinet's agreement on the application of article 155 when it comes to security is very clear. It's based on four points.
The first is the removal from office of the Catalan Interior minister, Joaquim Forn, and all the roles that office includes. The agreement specifically says "from the relevant authorities, the exercise of their functions will correspond to the bodies or authorities created or designated by the nation's government". These new officials will be able to "dictate direct instructions which must be followed by the members of the Police of the Government of Catalonia".
Rajoy's executive plans the "deployment of the State's Forces and Bodies of security in Catalonia" to work with the Mossos, but also leaves the option open "if necessary" of substituting "members" of the Mossos for the Civil Guard or Spanish National Police.
The cabinet agreement warns of the duty to follow the orders from the new authorities, saying that otherwise "it can constitute a disciplinary" offence and noting that the law defines penal and financial responsibilities.