Mossos d'Esquadra (lit. English: "Squad Lads") is the police force of Catalonia, one of the autonomous communities of Spain, along with the Policía Municipal. It is one of the oldest civil police forces in Europe, founded in the 18th century as the 'Esquadres de Catalunya' to protect the people of Catalonia.
Mossos d'Esquadra in dress uniform
They were originally men-at-arms who had fought as irregulars in the War of the Spanish Succession, and were brought together by the mayor of the town of Valls near Tarragona between 1719–1721. The corps became institutionalised and was manned by locals, who had to speak Catalan and be familiar with the paths, caves and hiding places in the area. They were eventually placed under military jurisdiction but were less centralised than the Spanish police force (then known as the 'Intendencia General de Policía') formed in 1817, or the yet to be established ‘Guardia Civil’, both of which were systematically deployed away from their regions of origin, and were thus strangers. Throughout the centuries it has passed back and forth from Catalan authority to Spanish military command several times. They were dissolved in 1868 by General Prim after the fall of Queen Isabella II of Spain, since the Mossos had always been royalists.
They were reinstated in 1876 under the reign of Isabella's son king Alfonso XII of Spain, but only in the province of Barcelona. Under his son Alfonso XIII of Spain, the Mossos were not well regarded in Catalonia, specially by the Mancomunitat de Catalunya, who paid them but had no control over them. They flourished, though, under Primo de Rivera's dictatorship. When the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed, however, the Mossos sided with the Generalitat de Catalunya. After the Spanish Civil War, the last Mossos left Catalonia with the President of the Generalitat and the corps was dissolved by the Francoist authorities.
On July 21, 1950 the Deputation of Barcelona was authorized to create a section of Mossos d'Esquadra. These new Mossos were a militarized corps with little similitude to the earlier incarnations, with limited attributes and small in number.
With the arrival of democracy, the Mossos d'Esquadra grew in number and attributions. Since October 25, 1980 it has been under the authority of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia).
The current incarnation of the Mossos d'Esquadra was created by a law of the Generalitat of July 14, 1983, basically re-founding the previous corps into a modern police force. They're no longer a military force, but a civilian one. Since then, the Mossos had gradually grown in both numbers and attributions.
Currently, the Mossos d'Esquadra are taking the place of Spain's Policia Nacional and Guardia Civil in Catalonia. This process of substitution began in 1994 and will be completed by 2008. In November 2005, the Mossos took full duties in the city of Barcelona.
The Policia Nacional and the Guardia Civil will keep some agents in Catalonia to handle terrorism, identity documents, immigration and other limited matters which the central government retains competences on.
The Mossos are trained in the Escola de Policia de Catalunya (Catalonia Police School), which also trains local police agents. They use Walther P99 pistols.