Two Guardia Civil officers talk to a resident of Sobrelapeña (Cantabria). Javier Rosendo
Virtual police could replace real officers in remote areas of Spain where the populations are dwindling

Virtual police could replace real officers in remote areas of Spain where the populations are dwindling

The Spanish government is addressing the lack of Guardia Civil cover in some areas, by replacing humans with super-realistic avatars trained by artificial intelligence

Álvaro Soto

Álvaro Soto


Wednesday, 6 September 2023, 10:44


Virtual police officers trained through artifical intelligence could be deployed to attend to members of the public in need of help in remote Spanish villages where populations are dwindling.

Spain is a step closer towards adopting the radical idea after the Ministry of the Interior published a tender, worth 499,846.79 euros, in the BOE Official State Gazette to develop a master plan based on the "artificial creation of super-realistic avatars with the corporate image of the Guardia Civil".

The virtual Guardia Civil pilot aims to ensure that police services remain accessible to those living in towns and villages with dwindling populations, and also to make up for a lack of real officers, who could be deployed to other more urgent matters.

According to the tender document, the super-realistic virtual officers would appear on a screen and be trained through artificial intelligence and deployed across some of the country's most remote areas.

The project is in its first phase, which will run from 2024 to 2026. During this time, people in smaller towns or villages may spot a column with a screen showing a Guardia Civil officer, who they can speak to.

"In this scenario of limited resources, it is a priority to promote the development and implementation of new technologies to provide a more efficient response and improve the conditions of service provision to the public, regardless of their training in digital skills," the Ministry of the Interior document summarised.

But the project has already been criticised. The Unified Association of the Civil Guard (AUGC) rejected the measure "as a replacement for the physical presence of Guardia Civil officers and units". "We will be very attentive to this implementation because we will not allow the Ministry of the Interior to try to replace physical police presence in favour of artificial intelligence to meet the demands of public safety," the union added.


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