Polícia de Segurança Pública

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Public Security Police
Polícia de Segurança Pública
Abbreviation PSP
Logo of the Public Security Police.
Motto Pela ordem e pela pátria
For order and for the fatherland
Agency overview
Formed 2 July, 1867
Preceding agency Polícia Cívica
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
National agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
Size 235px
Legal jurisdiction As per operations jurisdiction.
Primary governing body Government of Portugal
Secondary governing body Ministry of Interior (Portugal)
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters Lisbon

The Polícia de Segurança Pública (Public Security Police), abbreviated as PSP, is the national Portuguese police force. Part of the Portuguese security forces, the mission of the PSP is to defend Republican democracy, safeguarding internal security and the rights of its citizens. Despite many other functions, the force is generally known for policing urban areas by uniformed police officers, while rural areas are normally reserved for the National Republican Guard (GNR), a gendarmerie force. Due to their high visibility, the PSP is recognized by the public as the "police" in Portugal.


A traditional lantern sign that developed from the early foundations of the Portuguese public security forces
A map of the municipalities policed by the PSP in Mainland Portugal. The Azores and Madeira are policed by PSP or Municipal Police, while some municipalities on the mainland are patrolled by the GNR

Much like most of Europe, until the Middle Ages the defense of public order was the responsible of local communities, under the authority of feudal lords and courts.[1]

In Portugal, there are few references to the administration of justice until the second half of the 15th century. With the reign of King Afonso V (under the regency of Infante Pedro), the first ordinances and penal codes, known as the Ordenações Afonsinas.[1] These ordinances were reissued during the reign of King John I in 1514, after various changes under Manuel I. Some of the early judicial measures came from the early nobles. Afonso Henriques ordered the incarceration of women who lived with elements of the clergy, while in the era of Afonso II, under the influence of Visigothic codes and Roman law, resulted in the appearance of the first general laws.[1] Similarly, Afonso III punished anyone who assaulted and robed the home of another.[1] King Pedro I, the Just, decreed that anyone who falsified coins, gold or silver objects would have their hands and feet amputated. But, yet, criminals were provided shelters to flee justice: the churches, monasteries and "privileged" lands.[1] These "privileged" lands, therefore, becoming lands of thieves and criminals, resulting in King John extinguishing these areas. This was also something that King Fernando did with barrios, and only churches and convents became sanctuaries.[1]

The first corp of police agents were created by Fernando I, on 12 September 1383; consisting of 20 elements (the Quadrilheiros), who were recruited by force from the strongest physical men, to serve Lisbon.[1] These men were subject to the town council for three years, and required to swear fealty and carry weapons (a staff), which they would display at their homes, representing a symbol of their authority to arrest and direct criminals to the Corregedores (magistrates).[1] Yet, since these men never received payment for their services, and since these activities were dangerous, most chose to escape the responsibility. For most, these services were intolerable, with little presitge, at various times resulting in bruises and wounds in the execution of their tasks.[1] Owing to this By 1418, these constables were not required to circle the town. Later, Afonso V provided the Quadrilheiros, on 10 June 1460, with several social and economic privileges. Yet, these would disappear over time.[1]

But, even as Afonso V put into action other laws, regulations, advisories and ordinances, many were ineffective. King Sebastian promulgated laws on 31 January 1559, 17 January 1570, 12 July and 13 August 1571, to reinforce the laws of Fernando I, Edward and Afonso V.[1] In order to compensate the dimishing benefits of their service, the Quadrilheiros were exempt from paying taxes or military service.[1] Sebastian also ordered that Lisbon should be divided into barrios, and that each should be administered by an official of justice, with discretionary powers.[1] On 12 March 1603, King Philip II ordered new regulations for the Quadrilheiros in order to reinforce their authority. The Lisbon council, 30 January 1617, determined that Quadrilheiro should have a label over their doors to identify them, and that the King should confer on them special privileges, such as sitting at the council table. King John IV of Portugal provided a new charter, and a decree on 29 November 1644, forced them (under terrible sanctions) to serve the public, working in the day and evenings.[1] By the first half of the 18th century, little improved.[1] There continued to be a lack of policing, resulting in leis in 1701, 1702 and 1714. As new circuits were created to blanket the city, many of the criminals were aware that the laws transformed the situation into forgettable enclaves.[1] The Quadrilheiros continued to be a poor class, due to their limitations, resulting in poor public order.

After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake new laws and resolutions were established to maintain public order and reduce anarchy.[1] Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the Marquess of Pombal, found it necessary to create an organism to centralize all laws.[1] By law, on 25 June 1760, he created the Intendência da Polícia da Corte e do Reino (Police Quartermaster of the Court and the Kingdom), the position of Intendente-Geral da Polícia da Corte e do Reino (Quartermaster-General), with unlimited jurisdiction. The first Quartermaster-General was Inácio Ferreira Souto, at the same time that the term polícia (police) was commonly used, and the Quadrilheiros were relegated to the evening. But, this foundation did little resolve criminal issues, and locks on doors, grades on windows and blunderbusses beside the bed, continued to be important.[1] The Intendente-Geral was preoccupied with pursuing those who talk badly of the King, Government or Pombal, himself.[1] Between 1760 and 1780, chaos persisted. By decree, on 18 January 1780, Queen Maria I of Portugal named the old Criminal Judge for the Bairro do Castelo de S. Jorge, Diogo Inácio de Pina Manique, Intendente-Geral.[1] Instructed in laws at the University of Coimbra, he became a powerful chief: he began by expunging the police services of criminal elements, and took advantage of all laws to arrest all criminals or suspects in the Alfama, Mouraria, Bairro Alto and Madragoa, reorganizing the services and bring a level of respectability to the department.[1]

Around the same time, the Guarda Real de Polcia (Police Royal Guard) was founded on 25 December 1801, a militarized corp of cavalry.[1] While correctional "houses" were established, the Polícia Sanitária (Sanitary Police) was established to curb prostitution. Also, the Casa Pia de Lisboa, was founded to collect abandoned children.[1] As the Police Royal Guard was overwhelmed with customs supervision, the Guarda das Barreiras was created, later to be replaced by the Guarda das Alfândegas (Customs Guard). In 1808 the General Loison, at the behest of the Quartermaster-General of the Royal Guard Police, establish a Polícia Secreta (Secret Police).[1] In 1823, the Liberal government established the Guarda Nacional (National Guard) and on 23 June 1824, a new secret police was reestablished, the Polícia Preventiva (Preventative Police force).[1] On 21 August 1826 the Guarda Real de Polícia was discontinued.[1]

On 8 November 1833, the position of Intendente-Geral was discontinued with José António Maria de Sousa e Azevedo. All the services of the police, from this period, were transferred to the Prefects (later Civil Governors), of which the Prefect of the Province of Estremadura, Bento Pereira do Carmo, stands out.[1] The police prerogatives of this position remained temporary and territorial, influenced by prefects, general administrators and later civil governors.[1] On 18 April 1835, the Kingdom was divided into 17 administrative districts, with a Civil Governor for each district, and divided into municipalities, civil parishes and ecclesiastical parishes. But, the Civil Governors were responsible for public security.[1]

During a period of political confusion, caused by the Liberal Wars, the Guarda Real de Polícia is substituted by the Guarda Municipal (Municipal Guard), actually represented by the GNR, then created by Pereira do Carmo.[1] In this entanglement of police institutions, many times contradictory, the Guarda Nacional was dissolved in 1846.[1] Yet, the inconsistency of public security resulted in the 22 February 1838 law, that created a corp to maintain public security in each of the administrative districts of the country. Until this period, the laws, decrees and dispatches that were published provided better results in thefts and murders. The guards and judges, though, felt they were betrayed by threats and reprisals, that resulted in a demoralization of the profession.[1] In order to remedy this situation, King Luis ordered the publication of a law that founded a corp of civil police (2 July 1867). With the formation of the Corpo de Polícia Civil, the foundations were laid for creation of the Public Security Police.[1]


Two police officers in a mobile police station
Two PSP constables on foot patrol in Funchal on the island of Madeira

The public security police, in addition to its Special Operations Group (Portuguese: Grupo de Operações Especiais) is divided into other units:

  • Preventive Police this includes the prevention of general or organised crime and protection from terrorism, guaranteeing the security of people and goods (to the level of petty crime), in areas that are not specifically reserved for the Policia Judiciária (PJ);
  • Public Order, this division is responsible for intervention and special operations;
  • Administrative Police, the administrative arm of the security forces, responsible for acts emanating from the competent authority and some matters of licensing;
  • Exclusive powers, responsible for weapons control, ammunition and explosives, outside the authority of the armed and security forces, as well as guaranteeing the security for personnel of domestic and foreign entities, and other citizens subject to threat of person;
  • Special powers, responsible for airport security and the protection of diplomatic missions both locally and internationally;
  • Special Programs, the division used for educational programs, such as the "Safe School", "Security in elderly", "Trade Insurance", "Spring Insurance", "Domestic Violence" and the Integrated Policing of Proximity Program (PIPP).


The PSP depends on the Ministry of Internal Administration and is headed by a National Director in covering the following components:

  • National Director
  • Educational police establishments, including:
  1. Higher Institute of Police Science and Internal Security
  2. Practical school of police
  • Special Police Unit, including
  1. Intervention Corps (Corpo de Intervenção;CI)
  2. Personal Security Corps (Corpo de Segurança Pessoal;CSP)
  3. Special Operations Group (Grupo de Operações Especiais;GOE)
  4. Centre for Inactivation of Explosives and Underground Security (Centro de Inativação de Explosivos e Segurança em Subsolo;CIES)
  5. Technical Science Operations Group (Grupo Operacional Cinotécnico;GOC)
  • Police territorial command
  1. Metropolitan commands (Lisbon and Porto)
  2. Regional Commands (Azores e Madeira)
  3. District Commands (Faro, Beja, Évora, Portalegre, Setúbal, Santarém, Leiria, Castelo Branco, Coimbra, Aveiro, Viseu, Guarda, Braga, Viana do Castelo, Vila Real and Bragança).

The PSP is also responsible for providing police personnel who integrates with the municipal police in Lisbon and Porto. however these personnel depend on the functioning municipal administrations of these cities. The various territorial commands of the PSP are normally divided into police divisions, which include police stations.

The esquadra (squad) is the basic unit of the PSP, they are commanded by an officer or in substitute of an officer, the chief of the central police office. Therefore, the word esquadra has become the common term used by the Portuguese to refer to any police facility, even those that do not belong to the PSP.


Personnel within the PSP police force is delineated into: officers, chiefs and agents. Officers are educated and trained in courses at the specific university, Higher Institute of Police Sciences and Homeland Security (ISCPSI). The agents receive technical instruction at the Police Training School (EPP). The chiefs are promoted from agents, following a specific course in EPP.

The various categories, posts and respective main functions are:

  • Police officers
  • Chief Superintendent: National Director, National Deputy Director, Inspector General, Commander Command commander of the metropolitan or regional command;
  • Superintendent: District Command commander, 2nd commander in metropolitan and regional commands
  • Intendent: 2nd District Command commander, division commander in the metropolitan and regional commands;
  • Deputy Intendent: division commander of the police district commands, deputy command divisions commanded by officers;
  • Commissioner: Deputy Command divisions commanded by subintendentes;
  • Deputy Commissioner: Commander of the squad
  • Police Chiefs
  • Principle Chief: Auxiliary of commanding officers of their units;
  • Chief: Supervision of staff and leadership teams of police is responsible for the results;
  • Police Agents
  • Principal agent: Older policeman may perform functions similar to the post of chief;
  • Agent: Police agent
  • ISCPSI Pupils:
  • Aspiring official: 5th year student of the Training Course for Police Officers (CFOP);
  • Training Cadets: students from 1st to 4th year of CFOP;


A patrol vehicle of the Polícia de Segurança Pública


  • Beretta pistols (92FS、92F Compact and PX4) in 9x19mm Parabellum;
  • Glock 17 /19 in 9x19mm Parabellum (The G19 is the standard issued firearm);
  • Heckler and Koch pistols (P9S、VP70M 、USP Compact、P30) in 9x19mm Parabellum;
  • Various SIG pistols (GSR、P220、P226、P228、SP2022) in 9x19mm Parabellum (except for the GSR which is chambered in the .45 ACP);
  • Various Walther pistols (PP、P5、P88、P99)in 9x19mm Parabellum (except for the PP which is chambered in the .32 ACP and replaced by the G19);


  • Mossberg 590 ;
  • Remington 870;
  • Fabarm SDASS Compact;
  • Benelli M3;
  • Winchester 1200;

Submachine guns:

  • Beretta M12 in 9x19mm Parabellum;
  • FN P90 in 5.7x28mm;
  • Various HK models in 9x19mm Parabellum(MP5、UMP9、UMP45)(except for the UMP45 which is chambered in the .45 ACP);


  • Various HK models (G36、G3 and MSG-90);

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah PSP, ed. (2012), A História (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: Policia de Segurança Pública 

External links[edit]