Three springs ago, Capdepera town hall took pleasure in informing its citizens and any others who might have cared that the beach police unit was back on the beat. It had sprung into operation, as the official season demands, on 1 May. The town hall was able to also provide information about how well the unit had performed the previous year, which was when it was established. No fewer than 804 "denuncias" for non-compliance with bylaws had been issued.
Town halls love this sort of thing. Calvia is an even better example. Take, for instance, its report last year about the number of pineapples that had been impounded en route to Paguera and Magalluf beaches. Designed to impress, it ends up sounding limp if not slightly ridiculous.
The following summer, in July 2015, the town hall was giving information about its police night patrol, which was responding to citizen complaints regarding noise, street drinking and what have you. Before this season started, i.e. early April, it was reported that both the beach and night units could disappear. Police representatives were refusing to negotiate with the mayor. There was open warfare as the police felt badly let down. Their salaries, it was said, were the worst in Mallorca. Three officers from the night unit had decided to leave. The whole of the beach patrol looked as if it was on its way out as well.
Although one can (often with justification) mock the statistics that town halls enjoy lavishing on their citizenships, the police union said that the two units had generated successful results. Yet here they were, on the point of collapse because of low morale. Projecting ahead to the staging of the highly popular mediaeval market in May, union representatives were suggesting that only minimum services could be provided. Officers were refusing to perform "extraordinary services". The situation with their conditions - hours as well as pay - was "unsustainable".
Towards the end of April came news that certain weekend shifts had no police at all. This problem was expected to be repeated because of the lack of officers and the row over conditions. The prospect was looming of there being times in the main tourism season with no police patrols. The entire force of 37 was inadequate for a population that can increase to some 50,000, most of them in Cala Ratjada.
Last week, councillors from the opposition Partido Popular walked out of the council meeting. Protesting against the "authoritarianism" of PSOE (the mayor, Rafel Fernández, is from PSOE), they said that the administration was in chaos, one aspect of this being the failure to come to agreements with the police. The mayor pointed out that there had been a meeting the previous day at which there were some agreements, but not on pay. Increasing salaries would "not conform to legality" insofar as public employee pay is restricted under the terms of the so-called Montoro Law, named after the national finance minister.
At the weekend, there were various reports about the apparent total breakdown of control on the beaches of Cala Agulla and Son Moll. They had become "Comanche territory", invaded by hundreds of young people getting drunk, swimming nude, playing high-powered sound equipment and roasting chickens. These young people are Germans.
Responses to these reports didn't blame the police. They blamed the mayor and the town hall and the tourists. And for Cala Ratjada, this was hardly the first time that there was news of drunken German tourists. It's been going on for years, especially because of the spring break-type holidays. Cala Ratjada, so opinion goes, is the Magalluf of north-east Mallorca. That opinion is not wrong.
There are different issues here. One is policing. There are concerns elsewhere in Mallorca about the lack of police to deal with the greatly increased numbers of tourists. We all know about Magalluf and Playa de Palma, which are the resorts the politicians and much of the media are only ever interested in, but there are issues in places that don't normally attract attention. Playa de Muro is one, but it doesn't have the problems that Cala Ratjada has.
These are not the fault of the police or the town hall. The blame lies squarely with tour operators who organise spring-break holidays and with the hotels who accept the guests. The total disregard for coexistence and for the capabilities of local services, especially police, is scandalous.
So what's to be done? In all likelihood, nothing. What there is of the beach unit in Cala Ratjada - there were apparently two cops about at the weekend - cannot cope. The Guardia could be sent in but the Guardia have other matters to attend to. Compliance with local bylaws is first and foremost a local police issue and not a Guardia one. But as the police aren't there ... .