Your views on police in France

Are officers more approachable, more formal, or just passing the time?

Last week, after the riot police's union said they would fight a ban on have a drinking during work hours

FRANCE is a well-policed state – les flics are everywhere. There are different police forces. The municipal police are just a small step-up from traffic wardens. The gendarmerie are the real and frightening police force. They are armed at all times, openly carrying guns and tasers on their belts. Their reputation as hard uncompromising officers is well deserved - the slightly bumbling bonhomie of Maigret has no place in reality. All their potential customers would be best advised to avoid confrontation with them.

Another law-keeping body, wheeled out when the going threatens to develop beyond merely unpleasant is Les Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, otherwise known as Car Rempli des Singes (cart-load of monkeys). Civil unrest is a participation sport in France, so the CRS riot police are quite frequently deployed, with shields and batons drawn to restore order, but only after both sides have had their fun.

The gendarmerie is certainly an intimidating force. We have had some mild dealings with them. A mistaken half-stop at a Stop road sign produced a brief hearing that brooked no discussion. The weaponry made for obedient responses and a feeling more severe than waiting outside the headmaster's study. My wife, an ex-police officer along with several of her immediate family, was also reduced to silent obedience - not a usual state.

One afternoon, as we were having tea in the garden, we were visited by a couple of gendarmes, fully armed and clearly meaning business. Apparently, an elderly couple had been found dead in mysterious circumstances just along the road. They asked about the couple’s son, a local electrician who happened to have been doing some work for us a few days earlier.

It was a particularly hot day, and we offered them some orange juice. Their attitude changed on the spot. Perhaps it was the first time anyone had been kind to them, and they visibly relaxed and became less menacing. It turned out that another son did the murder in a fit of rage about his inheritance, so our connection was entirely irrelevant anyway, but we did get another view of life in our adopted country.
Chris Dewse

I SPEND at least 6 months a year in the Dordogne and can honestly say I have never felt threatened by the police. As a foreigner I have often asked for information and even when I have inadvertently broke the law as going the wrong way down a street have always found them synpathetic.

I have always felt able to approach them wherever I have been. Not so in the UK. Here I find their attitude more often than not threatening and they give the impression they have no time (or inclination) to answer enquiries, when lost for example. They purposely dress in a fashion not far short of the Nazis clearly designed to threaten. Last year I had two encounters with the police. One at Manchester Airport when I approached an armed policeman and asked if he could direct me to a medic since I felt dizzy, probably due to my diabetes. He declined help saying he was not an information service.

On another occasion I stopped my car in a town in Cumbria near a police patrol car and asked if he could direct me to the main exit road towards the M6. He replied that I was parked in an illegal spot and told to move on. I persisted and then he asked to see my driving licence and after reading it told me to move otherwise he would give me a ticket.

Whenever I arrive back in the UK I am always appalled at the unwelcome attitude of the authorities who seem to try their best to avoid any contact or even offer a smile, and where there are notices everywhere warning passengers not to annoy staff by stating they have a zero tolerance.
In France I have never encountered such rudeness from any official source.
Tony Ptolemy

THE 25cl wine is a tradition at lunchtime in France and it should stay as long as it is only the one drink.
But as for drinking while on duty at a demonstration, that can never be allowed and action should be taken against those involved.
Brian Myers

I CANNOT believe a so called modern country like France has allowed people carrying weapons to drink at all, I know it's very strictly banned in the British armed forces.

As is drinking whilst driving an MOD vehicle on duty or off.
Some of Frances seemingly old fashioned attitudes are nice but harmless, this I suggest is wrong. If I see an armed policeman I am hoping he is absolutely sober.
Ray Veysey

I HAVE found the police officers very friendly and helpful. My only concern is who will breathalise the officers?
Dave Lowe

This shouldn't be allowed and it's downright dangerous because drinking clouds your judgement.
I don't think I ever heard of a British bobby having a pint or a glass of wine when on duty, they do not have a good argument for having a drink, whether they are on their lunch break or not.

The fact remains they are in the public eye and I would not like it if I had to have assistance by a French policeman with alcohol on their breath. It's un-professional. What next ambulancemen and firemen?
Ian Campbell

I USED to be very pro-police when I lived in the UK, but their unsympathetic attitude to even law abiding citizens left much to be desired. That supported numerous of my other reasons for moving here.

As for drinking on the job...

There is a report that, a few years ago, a woman was stopped for a minor traffic offence close to where I live. She refused to give an on-the-spot breath test.
She was taken to the local Gendarmerie where accordingly they stated their intention to force her to take the test. She was actually the wife of a high ranking gendarmerie officer in a nearby town and knew her rights, only agreeing to a breath test if all members of the staff on duty did so as well.

They had to take the test. She passed, and a large proportion of the staff failed.

One wonders if the law that she used would need to be rescinded should they be allowed to drink whilst on duty. It would be a pity. The appropriate law should be made more widely known.

Peter Sturtivant

THERE is no comparison, the French police officers are approachable and more of them too. They also seem to command a respect from everyone, which is not now the position with the UK police force.
Jan Lake

THE people in France seem almost paranoid about les flics, constantly warning me to beware.
The police themselves are paranoid that they'll be attacked, so they go round mob-handed, vans full of them. Even the speed cops on motorbikes are never seen one on their own.

They seem to do little except chat among themselves. A couple of them occasionally pull you over for le controle, with lots of jumping-up-and-down and arm-waving.
It looks like the cushiest job in the world, but you have to feel sorry for them as they don't have flashy squad cars.
Philip Bollom