The French government has launched a public consultation to consider ways to renew public confidence in the country’s police forces, which has been eroded by repeated scandals over discrimination and brutality.
Named the “Beauvau for security” after the Paris square where the Interior Ministry is located, the consultation plans to gather public officials, representatives of the police and gendarme forces, experts and others for eight sessions until May, to provide the basis for future legislation.
Speaking before representative of the police and gendarmerie military police force, Prime Minister Jean Castex expressed hope the consultation would find ways to relieve security staff of excessive administrative work, a longstanding request of police unions.
The security forces must be “on the ground and closer to the populations, the least caught up in paperwork as possible,” Castex told a gathering of unions and representatives, emphasising the “particularly difficult work” that resulted in 8,700 on-duty injuries in 2020.
The prime minister said the government would not tolerate discrimination or misconduct, which he called a “complex subject” to be addressed in the clearest possible terms.
Recurring accusations of misconduct
President Emmanuel Macron announced the initiative in December at a moment of particularly strong criticism of France’s security forces, which are regularly accused of discrimination and using excessive force.
“I want to advance quickly and concretely to improve the working conditions for the noble and essential job of keeping the peace,” Macron said. “France hands together through its police and gendarmes.”
The initiative followed the publication in November of images of officers, unaware they were being filmed, assaulting Michel Zecler, a black music producer inside his Paris recording studio.
The outcry over the images came at the height of a protest movement against proposed security legislation that would place limits on the online publication of images of police officers. The movement continues to draw protesters on most Saturdays.
Last week, six NGOs filed a lawsuit against the French government over what they claimed to be systematic racial profiling in police checks.
Policing at Yellow Vest and other protests since 2018 has left dozens of demonstrators mutilated by riot control weapons including rubber bullets and stun grenades.
Castex said the consultation would aim to draft an “ambitious law” on security by next year.