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I.  Introduction

In Portugal, internal security functions are performed by the National Republican Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana, GNR); the Public Security Police (Polícia de Segurança Pública, PSP); the Judicial Police (Polícia Judiciária); the Border and Immigration Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras); and the Office of Information Security (Serviço de Informações de Segurança).[1]  The GNR was established as a quasi-military security force that, if required, can make use of military equipment and arms.[2]  Investigation services and security forces are funded by the federal government.  In 2014, their budget was €1.6 billion (approximately US$2.15 billion).[3]  However, no information was located concerning the amount of resources allocated to the acquisition of weapons.

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II.  Police Weapons and Equipment

A.  Individual Weapons

The Portuguese laws researched for this report do not list what individual weapons, equipment, or materials are used by federal, local, or special police forces.  Law No. 5 of February 23, 2006, however, prohibits the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, and use and possession of weapons, ammunition, and accessories classified as class A.[4]  Class A weapons, ammunition, and accessories include but are not limited to military equipment and war materials; automatic firearms; and explosive chemical, biological, radioactive, or nuclear weapons.[5]

B.  Other Equipment

On December 11, 2013, a Portuguese newspaper reported that the Public Security Police (PSP) acquired two drones, three jet skis, and a boat capable of transporting ten people.[6]  The purchase of the drones was authorized in July 2013 and classified as secret.[7]  They come equipped with two recording cameras, remote-viewing instruments, and high-tech communications.  The drones feature two hours of autonomous flight at a maximum altitude of 150 meters and a range of twenty kilometers.  The device weighs five kilograms, has a wingspan of 1.8 meters, has manual (hand thrown) takeoff, and lands with the aid of a parachute.[8]

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III.  Rules on the Use of Police Weapons

Decree-Law No. 457 of November 5, 1999, applies to situations involving the use of firearms in police actions.[9]  The use of firearms is allowed as an extreme measure, only when absolutely necessary and when less dangerous means have proved ineffective, and provided that their use is proportionate to the circumstances.[10]  Article 3 lists the situations when the use of firearms is allowed.  The use of firearms must be preceded by a clearly visible warning when the circumstances allow it.[11]  The warning may consist of shooting into the air, provided that the shots could not hit anyone and that the prior warning could not be immediately perceived.[12]  If a firearm is used, its use must be immediately reported to the police officer’s hierarchical superiors in the shortest possible time, and accompanied by a written report.[13]

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IV.  Controversies

With regard to the PSP’s acquisition of equipment to be used on air and on water, the president of the police union (Associação Sindical dos Profissionais de Polícia) was quoted as saying that “it was unacceptable that at a time when the state owes thousands of euros to more than three thousand police officers, when the PSP does not have the necessary cars, or protective equipment for their staff, that the PSP invest in equipment like this that is not essential.”[14]  Although somewhat in favor of acquiring the drones to help with police work, the president was skeptical as to its timing, and further said with regard to the purchase of the boats and jet skis that maritime police were already in place and that the acquisition represented both a duplication of investments and an infringement on the jurisdiction of other police bodies.[15]

As for the collection and use of aerial images, the spokesperson for the National Commission for the Protection of Data (Comissão Nacional de Protecção de Dados) said that the current laws on the use of fixed or mobile cameras did not address this type of situation and that such means could be used only after the adoption of legislation that permitted it.[16] 

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Eduardo Soares
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
September 2014


[1] Lei No. 53/2008, de 29 de Agosto, art. 25, available on the Polícia Judiciária website, at http://www.policia judiciaria.pt/PortalWeb/page/%7B24B74B28-58D9-4CDE-85DB-14A7A6ED89C3%7D.

[2] Guarda Nacional Republicana, Guarda Nacional Republicana, http://www.gnr.pt/default.asp?do=t04/14tn0v Cnpn1/qrsv0vpn1EE (last visited Sept. 10, 2014).

[3] Lei No. 83-C/2013, de 31 de Dezembro, Diário da República, 1a série, No. 253: 7056-(161), 31 de dezembro de 2013, http://www.dgo.pt/politicaorcamental/OrcamentodeEstado/2014/Or%C3%A7amento%20Estado%20 Aprovado/Documentos%20do%20OE/Lei_83-C_2013-OE2014_VersaoDR.pdf.

[4] Regime Jurídico das Armas e suas Munições, Lei No. 5/2006, de 23 de Fevereiro, art. 4(1), http://www.pgdlisboa. pt/leis/lei_mostra_articulado.php?nid=692&tabela=leis.

[5] Id. art. 3(2).  For a full list of class A weapons, ammunition, and accessories, see Law No. 5/2006.

[6] José Antonio Cerejo, PSP Compra Veículos Aéreos Não Tripulados, Motas de Agua e Um Barco, Público (Dec. 12, 2013), http://www.publico.pt/sociedade/noticia/psp-compra-drones-motas-de-agua-e-um-barco-1615767#/1.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Decreto-Lei No. 457/99, de 5 de Novembro, art. 1(1), http://www.pgdlisboa.pt/leis/lei_mostra_articulado.php? nid=1558&tabela=leis

[10] Id. art. 2(1).

[11] Id. art. 4(1).

[12] Id. art. 4(2).

[13] Id. art. 7(1).

[14] José Antonio Cerejo, supra note 6 (translated by the author).

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

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Last Updated: 06/09/2015