On a trip to the French Mediterranean coast Monday, President Emmanuel Macron unveiled his priorities for police and internal security – most notably plans to double the number of officers on the ground by 2030.
Speaking to an audience of police, gendarmerie and other officials in Nice – a stronghold of rightwing election rival Valérie Pécresse – Macron promised a sharp increase in the number of field teams, including the creation of new positions.
In the works is a reorganisation of law and order to bring together the national and municipal police in an umbrella station equipped with advanced technology.
Officers would be freed of the burden of “peripheral” tasks such as guarding public buildings, transferring prisoners and policing hearings.
“We are going to free them (police and gendarmes) by employing administrative staff or setting up partnerships with private partners under contract,” Macron said.
This move, he estimated, would free up the equivalent of 3,500 police officers and gendarmes.
Local media reports said the plan meant there would be administrative staff in the place of police officers to take care of passport controls at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports.
Accompanied by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Secretary of State Marlene Schiappa, Macron also spoke on other security issues such as crime, femicide and cybersecurity.
Macron announced an investment of one billion euros towards dealing with online attacks. This would include 1,500 new jobs for cyber officers and the establishment of a special training school.
He also used the occasion to defend his track record on fighting terrorism and drug trafficking during his first term in office.
“We have created, trained, deployed on 10,000 police and gendarme positions,” the head of state said.
In a bid to lighten the load for the court system, Macron also announced that fines would replace prison sentences under one year, often handed down for drug use.
This process of "simplification" would allow for "judges to concentrate on more important matters," he said.
Although not yet officially a presidential candidate for polls in April, Macron's speech had clear campaign overtones as he gave details of a future orientation law on internal security, which would be put in place in case of re-election.
He said a security budget of 15 billion euros over a five year period would be presented at a cabinet meeting in March, and would only be given the green light after the presidential election.
The moves were all part of a road to a “quiet life” for France.
"I want to tell you how determined I am to work towards this peaceful life to which the French are entitled,” Macron added.
“We are not there; the road is long, but our duty and our vocation is to continue to improve things tirelessly.”
Macron’s trip down south was snubbed by opposition MP Eric Ciotti of the righting Republicans party, who represents the Alpes-Maritimes electorate where Nice is located.