'Forgotten' French police protest against lack of resources

Police protesting near the Justice Ministry in Paris yesterday, for the first time since 1983. The force is stretched to breaking point as it remains on high alert for terrorist attacks while dealing with everyday crimes.
Police protesting near the Justice Ministry in Paris yesterday, for the first time since 1983. The force is stretched to breaking point as it remains on high alert for terrorist attacks while dealing with everyday crimes.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • French police, the heroes of January's militant attacks in Paris, now complain they have been forgotten and will hold a rare protest over a lack of resources to fight an "explosion of violence".

The first police protest in France in three decades came yesterday after an officer was seriously injured last week in a shootout with a criminal who committed a robbery after going on the run during a leave of absence from prison.

The shooting infuriated a force already stretched to breaking point as police officers remain on high alert for terrorist attacks while having to deal with everyday crimes. They also complain that the French justice system is ineffective.

"The police, heroes in January, have been forgotten," said Mr Jean-Claude Delage of the police union Alliance.

Three police officers were shot dead when Islamist gunmen carried out a string of attacks in the French capital in January that left 17 dead, including much of the editorial team of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The deaths of their colleagues and the dramatic hunt and fatal shooting of the three militants led to an outpouring of support for the police, who were greeted with spontaneous applause and shouts of "thank you" at a mass rally after the three-day killing spree.

Mr Nicolas Comte, of the Unite-police SGP grouping, said the force was now overwhelmed with a "worrying state of fatigue".

For Mr Patrice Ribeiro of Synergie, the second biggest police union, the problem is "despondency, a loss of the meaning of their job".

All the unions complain about an "explosion of violence", a "lack of resources", "unclear missions" and a "lack of solutions from the criminal justice system".

The police officers protested outside the offices of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, reviving an old enmity between the police service and Justice Ministry in France.

French President Francois Hollande said yesterday that he would meet police unions next week, government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said.

But the pressure on France's police is unlikely to ease anytime soon, with two upcoming events requiring high security: the UN climate conference in December and the Euro 2016 football championship in June and July next year.

The last police protest took place in 1983, when some 1,500 officers took to the streets to criticise government policy under president Francois Mitterrand after two policemen were killed by an extreme-left grouping.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline ''Forgotten' French police protest against lack of resources'. Print Edition | Subscribe