France is set to open a training centre for law enforcement officers called to protest situations, the interior minister has said, although a definite opening date has not yet been confirmed.
The new site will be in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, Val-de-Marne, in Ile de France.
In an interview with Le Parisien, Gérald Darmanin said that the training centre would be especially focused on training police officers to better manage protests and demonstrations.
He said: “This hasn’t existed until now. And of course, things can be improved.”
The plan will form part of proposals to combat “delinquency”, according to the new police prefect Laurent Nuñez, who has shifted to this priority in contrast to his predecessor, Didier Lallement, who mainly focused on managing “public order”.
It is also part of plans to reform the policing institution, he said.
Mr Darmanin added: “The interior minister, police and gendarmerie must do everything to respect the constitutional right of protesters to protest, even when they are marching against the police. It is an honour to do so.”
The minister also said that he would create 1,000 new police officer jobs in Paris in the next five years, with half of these to be created within the next two years.
Police violence and behaviour during protests have been high on the agenda in France over the past few years, especially since the gilets jaunes movement in 2018.
In 2019, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said that “police violence” was “making protests difficult” in the capital.
In the same year, the United Nations placed France on its police violence list and announced an “in-depth investigation” into the issue by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
France was the only developed nation on the list.
In 2020, it was announced that all police officers would wear body cameras – caméras-piétons (pedestrian cameras) in French – whenever they were on duty.
The cameras are intended to collect footage that can be viewed afterwards, as a way to ensure that police are following the correct procedure and to check what happened during any contested or controversial events.
Their footage may also be used as evidence in the event of a crime and for training purposes.