French President Emmanuel Macron has said there is an “urgent need” to reform the security forces, following weeks of protests over police violence.
He will hold a summit next month to review community relations and the working conditions of the police.
“I want to move quickly and concretely,” Mr Macron said in a letter to a leading police union on Monday.
It follows weeks of nationwide demonstrations over a controversial draft security law.
The bill would outlaw taking photos of police with malevolent intent, but opponents say it would undermine press freedom to document police brutality.
Demonstrations over the draft law intensified after footage emerged of three white policemen beating a black music producer last month.
The officers involved reportedly face, along with a colleague, charges of “intentional violence by a person holding authority”. They deny abusing the man racially.
In response to the backlash, President Macron’s ruling party said parts of the draft law would be rewritten. Mr Macron also acknowledged there were “some officers who are violent” and they “must be punished” in an interview with the youth-focused news website Brut – prompting angry criticism from police bodies.
What did the president say?
“It is urgent to act to beef up the trust between the French and the police,” Mr Macron wrote in a letter to the Unity-SGP-FO police union.
“[We must] give police and gendarmes the means to meet their commitments and the expectations of our citizens,” he added. “I will intervene personally.”
He said next month’s summit would bring together senior police officers, citizens and politicians at the headquarters of the interior ministry.
They are set to review issues such as police staffing, discrimination training and the use of video cameras during operations. “We owe [the police] support and protection,” Mr Macron wrote. “I will see to it.”
The meeting, he said, would be based on proposals announced by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin last week.
Mr Darmanin listed what he called the “seven deadly sins” of the police force that could be subject to reform. These included training, supervision, equipment and the police disciplinary body.
“One of the difficulties is that there aren’t enough leaders… present on the streets,” Mr Darmanin told the National Assembly. “We must rebuild an intermediate group of supervisors on the ground.”
The president’s letter was a response to the secretary general of the Unity-SGP-FO union, Yves Lefebvre, who expressed anger at Mr Macron’s interview with Brut.
Mr Lefebvre accused the president of “blaming the police rather than blaming politicians… who discriminated… and banished immigrants to the suburbs, with a total lack of diversity, so they didn’t have to see them”.
Another major union, Alliance, described the president’s comments as “shameful”. “The president will get the police he deserves,” it said in a statement.
Published at Tue, 08 Dec 2020 03:59:00 +0000