President Emmanuel Macron has said there is “urgent” need to reform the French police following multiple allegations of brutality and complaints from officers about growing hostility from the public.
In a letter to a police union leader seen by AFP on Tuesday, Macron said he would call a meeting bringing together all sides in January to discuss how to improve relations between the police and communities.
“There is urgent need to act,” Macron said in the letter to the Unite-SGP-FO police union, signalling his intent to personally take charge of a hot-button issue that has brought tens of thousands of protesters onto the streets in recent weeks.
The roundtable discussion, which will bring together police representatives, lawmakers and community leaders, will also address the police’s longstanding complaints over working conditions, he said.
“France is held together by its police and gendarmes….we owe them support and protection, I will see to it,” Macron wrote on Monday to union leader Yves Lefebvre.
In France, the issue of policing is the preserve of the interior minister.
But growing public distrust of the police, combined with increasing discontent in the ranks over long hours and rising anti-police violence, have put pressure on Macron to take action.
Footage of white officers beating up an unarmed black music producer in his studio last month acted as a turning point.
The images of the attack on Michel Zecler, who was stopped for not wearing a mask during the Covid-19 pandemic, fuelled longstanding allegations of racism in the force and amplified demonstrations against a bill that would have restricted filming of the police.
Macron’s ruling LREM party has since promised to rewrite the controversial clause in its draft security law.
The four officers have been charged with assault and proferring racial slurs.
Other incidents caught on camera have shown police in Paris using violence to tear down a migrant camp.
In an interview last week with Brut, a video news portal aimed at young people, Macron called out the police on racial profiling.
“When you have a skin colour that is not white, you are stopped much more (by police). You are identified as a problem factor. And that cannot be justified,” he said.
He announced plans to set up a website where people could file complaints of discrimination.
But he also lashed out at the violence against police during demonstrations over the security bill.
In his letter to Lefebvre, he said January’s meeting would tackle seven areas that have been identified by interior minister Gerald Darmanin as areas for reform.
They are: police training, supervision, resources, the filming of on-duty police, inspections, staffing levels and the relations between the police and citizens.
Lefebvre had written to the president to complain over his remarks on racial profiling.
He argued that the issue was not one of police racism but of immigrants being housed by the authorities in the same high-rise housing estates over decades.
Published at Tue, 08 Dec 2020 08:15:00 +0000