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Row over police uniform numbers

Unions say officers on the verge of rebelling after being forced to wear identifying badges

POLICE officers are being forced to wear a number on their uniforms as part of a new law to prevent abuses despite their unions saying the numéro de matricule stigmatised their work and makes them more liable to face threats.

The new measure came into force on January 1 and was one of the election promises of President Hollande in a bid to halt repeated identity or stop and search checks.

Mr Hollande had initially looked at making police hand over a receipt to anyone facing such a check but this was dropped after police protests and Interior Minister Manuel Valls opted for officers to wear numbers instead. This was aimed at improving relations between the public and police.

However, the move has been attacked by police unions of every political persuasion and at all levels of the force.

Unions say officers are on the verge of rebelling and Jean-Claude Delage, of the second-largest union Alliance, said: “Police officers on the ground feel they are upholding the values of the republic and that there are already controls in place. They do not want uniform numbers – they see it as bad.

“Police officers are already punished if they make a mistake. The Interior Minister has given in to lobbying from certain pressure groups.”

Nicolas Comte, of Unité SGP Police FO, said the numbers were a bad response to a good intention: to improve relations between the public and police.

He said in Nouvel Observateur magazine that it laid the blame for all problems on the police – when the fall in public respect for officers had been continuing over years and police were not always to blame.

“The increase in the difficulty of the job, with increased aggression and tension and especially, but not only, in the problem districts, mean that our daily job is harder and harder to manage. Something as minor as a traffic offence can spark a major street confrontation.”

However, Pierre Mairat, of anti-racism group Mrap, said the introduction of uniform numbers was only a minor step towards stopping abuses.
Photo: Phovoir

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