New anti-racism measures for French police

Violence and racism within the French police force are to be tackled by new measures announced this week (June 8), the French Minister of the Interior has said. More protests against police violence in France are planned for today.

9 June 2020
A protestor holds a sign at a protest against police violence and racism in France. New anti-racism measures are set to be introduced for French policeMore protests against racism and police violence are planned for this evening (June 9) around France.
By Joanna York

The new measures were announced yesterday by Christophe Castaner, after President Emmanuel Macron called for the government to “accelerate” efforts to improve ethics within the police force.

This follows increased incidents of police violence in the past few months and wide-scale protests against racism and police violence in France in recent weeks. 

Read more: Thousands protest racism in France despite Covid-19

Read more: 20,000 protest police violence in France

As he announced the new measures yesterday (June 8), Mr Castaner said: “Racism has no place in our society and even less in our police force.” 

Racist acts to be punished with suspension

The minister said: “I have asked that suspensions be considered for every proven suspicion of racist acts or language.”

He called for a “zero tolerance” approach to this measure, and acknowledged that the French police were currently dealing with matters relating to racism, antisemitism and homophobia within the force.

To this end, ethics advisor for the Minister of the Interior, Christian Vigouroux, will set up an assignment dedicated to racist acts and language within the police.  

The end of chokehold arrest

The controversial chokehold arrest method will no longer be taught in police academies in France, as it is now considered too dangerous. In France this hold is commonly called “étranglement”, which translates as "strangulation".

Mr Castaner said: “If a police officer has to place someone against the ground while they are being arrested, from now on they are not allowed to lean on their neck.”

 

Changes for ID checks 

Police officers in France will receive training on the framework for carrying out identity checks.

The minister also reminded police officers that they must wear their police identification numbers (known as a référentiel des identités et de l'organisation, RIO) when they are at work, and that spot checks would be introduced to make sure this was happening. The use of police body cameras will also be increased.

Police inspections to be reformed  

Mr Castaner called for more “transparency” in investigations carried out by his own ministry, the Ministry of the Interior. 

He suggested reforms that would see bodies that investigate different branches of the police (such as the l'Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale (IGPN), and the l'Inspection Générale de la Gendarmerie Nationale (IGGN) work together in a coherent way, giving them “more independence in their actions” in relation to the services they investigate.

Increasing public trust in the police

While a recent study cited by Mr Castaner indicated that 84.9% of people in France have a positive impression of the national police force, he warned: “I will only be satisfied when 100% of people in France respond positively.” 

He said: “I will only be satisfied when we can stop asking ourselves how we’ve gone from 'long live the police' ("Vive la police") chanted during protests following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, to the slogans and horrors of the past few days,” he added.  

Examination of cases for Adama Traoré and Gabriel

Two controversial police arrests involving claims of police violence against ethnic minority victims are to be examined in detail.

Mr Castaner promised that “light will be shed” on the case of Gabriel, a 14-year old arrested in Bondy (Seine-Saint-Denis) on May 25. During the arrest Gabriel alleged that police officers hit him, seriously injuring his eye.  

President Macron has also asked justice minister Nicole Belloubet to examine the 2016 death of Adama Traoré, who died in police custody, after being forcefully restrained by police. Traoré’s family have been active in organising protests against police violence in recent weeks.

Prime minister to visit 'difficult' area

Today prime minister Edouard Philippe will meet with police working in reportedly "difficult areas" in Evry-Courcouronnes (Essonne). Mr Philippe will discuss prevention and reinforcement measures, as well as the link between the police and the local population. 

A statement from the Prime Minister's office Matignon said that Mr Philippe would also meet with local people in the area to reassure them “of the government's determination to fight against all forms of racism and discrimination”. 

More protests planned for today

Despite the new measures, more protests are planned for this evening (June 9) around France, to “fight police racism” and remember George Floyd. 

Mr Floyd was an unarmed black man who died after being arrested by four policemen in Minneapolis, in the United States. The four policemen who arrested Mr Floyd have since been charged with his murder. His death sparked Black Lives Matter protests in the US and around the world. 

In his speech, Christophe Castaner was keen to draw contrast between accusations of police violence in France and the United States. “France is not the United States,” he said.  

“I refuse to say the institution [in France] is racist but, yes, there are racist police officers.”

Organisers of the protests in Paris this evening are urging attendees to wear masks and “strongly respect health measures” to stop the spread of Covid-19.

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