France to open a consultation on reforming its police forces

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is to launch a major nation-wide consultation to gauge the opinion of citizens, unions, politicians and external experts on a future reform of the Police and the Gendarmerie.

The various objectives include improving the working conditions of law enforcement agencies, strengthening domestic security and renewing the deteriorating trust between officers and the public.

Amid controversy over police racism and violence and faced with intense criticism of the Global Security Law, Macron promised citizens a major national consultation on the reform of both bodies, in which police unions, ministers, international politicians and experts will participate. The consultations, which will last until May, will lay the foundations for a new draft internal security law in 2022.

The consultation will take place over four months and address the link between the police and the French public, officer training, the relationship between the police and the justice system, keeping the peace, issues around recording videos of police actions, the reform of internal affairs units and improvements in material and human resources.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin does not believe there is a separation between the police and the French population as some analysts and politicians say; he hopes the reform will serve to address what he has called the “seven deadly sins” of the police. Among these “sins” he cites the insufficient initial and ongoing training of French police officers and gendarmes: eight months compared to the three years in Denmark. Furthermore, many novice police officers are initially posted to the more troubled districts of large cities without being well-trained for the situation, and do not receive adequate support and resources from their superiors.

An in-depth reform of the Inspectorate-General of the National Police (IGPN), the equivalent of internal affairs in other countries, is also expected. The “police of the police”, as it is known in France, is often accused of a lack of independence and transparency, which contributes to a sense of impunity for crimes committed by officers.

French citizens are divided over police violence: 42% believe the accusations are genuine, while the same percentage thinks the violence is either marginal or non-existent. The same pattern can be seen with regard to complaints of police racism: 43% believe they are isolated incidences, while 39% think French law enforcement agencies are intrinsically racist.

The Police, for their part, complain of low wages, work overload, a scarcity of resources and a wave of suicides across the force. Officers, who have been on constant alert since the series of Islamist attacks in 2015, have become the target of violent protesters, such as the “yellow vest” protests and others seen more recently. According to official figures, in 2020, 11 French law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty, and 8,700 police and gendarmes were injured.


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