After months on end fighting protests and riots, French police may now become the new source of instability in the country.
The long wave of protests caused by the tyrannical pension reform implemented by Emmanuel Macron’s government was immediately followed by over a week of violent riots that began over the killing of 17-year-old Nahel M. by a policeman during a traffic check outside Paris.
During one incident in Marseille, a 21-year-old man named Hedi was beaten by four or five policemen, having also been hit in the head by a blast ball fired by police, and risks losing an eye.
Four policemen were charged last week over the incident, and one of them was remanded in custody ahead of the trial.
That caused the extreme outrage in the police ranks, and many officers in the Marseille region have gone on sick leave or are responding only to emergency calls.
This new crisis has left Macron’s government having to tread a fine line: assuring that policemen are not above the law, while at the same time not alienating the law enforcement agencies ahead of next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.
“French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Thursday said he understood frustration and anger among the country’s overworked security forces after recent bouts of street violence, but urged police not to let down the population and serve the public interest.”
The police officer in detention is accused of ‘voluntary violence’. This has worsened the widespread discontent within the police over the hard working conditions and what they see as ‘lack of fairness’ in the assessment of their work.
“‘I want to say that I can understand this fatigue, sadness and emotion’, Darmanin said before heading into a meeting with police union representatives, but added police agents mustn’t forget their ‘sense of mission’.
‘Because who suffers when the police aren’t on the street? It’s the woman facing violence from her partner, it’s the child in distress, it’s the inhabitants of working-class neighborhoods who can’t assure their security and who are counting on police’.”
Frederic Veaux, French National Police Chief, made statements that were widely perceived as a challenge to the independence of the judiciary, and in disrespect of the separation of powers.
“‘Knowing that he is in prison is stopping me from sleeping’, said France’s national police chief Frederic Veaux in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper published on Monday.
‘In general, I believe that ahead of a possible trial, a police officer should not be in prison, even if he may have committed serious faults or errors in the course of his work’, he added.”
Paris police chief, Laurent Nunez, also stated that he shared the stance of Veaux.
“In an interview with French television, President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that he understood the ’emotion’ of the police after the recent riots, while emphasizing that ‘no one in the Republic is above the law’. […] ‘[The ruling to jail the policeman] is a decision which was taken by a judge so I am not going to comment on it’.”
It’s nbeen reported that hundreds of Marseille police officers have gone on sick leave, in a sign of protest over the officer’s detention.
Others put themselves under so called ‘code 562’ – they only respond to emergency and essential missions.
“But in a rare public intervention, Marseille’s top judge Olivier Leurent in a statement urged ‘restraint so that the judiciary can pursue the investigation free from pressure and in complete impartiality’.”