Europe

French police hold rare nationwide protests

French police officers in Paris carry union flags next to the French justice ministry as part of their protest to demand better working conditions in Paris (14 October 2015) Image copyright AP
Image caption Unions complain that increased violence on the streets of Paris has come at a time when resources are at a minimum

Thousands of French police officers have held a rare protest in Paris and across the country over what they say are a lack of resources and a judiciary that is too lenient towards criminals.

The protesters also say they have not been given enough credit for fighting jihadists and violent criminals.

It is the first significant police protest in France in three decades.

The government has in response pledged a series of reforms, including tougher sentences for violent criminals.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that there would be stiffer sentences for people in possession of weapons and plans would be introduced to simplify criminal procedures.

"I hear the anger of the police, I hear their malaise," he said.

Police 'forgotten'

Mr Valls said more prisoners should be provided with police escorts when on a leave of absence and that permission for inmates to be given leave should not be forthcoming without "proven necessity".

At the same time, President Francois Hollande praised "the difficult, courageous and effective work by police, gendarmes and all security forces" in his weekly cabinet meeting, promising to meet police unions next week.

Police on Wednesday demonstrated in front of the ministry of justice in Paris, as well as outside courthouses across the country.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Officers say they have not been given enough credit for dealing with violent criminals
Image copyright EPA
Image caption It is the first significant police protest in France in more than 30 years
Image copyright AP
Image caption Demonstrators say the police force itself is over-stretched

Their anger reached a peak this week after a prisoner who had been granted a temporary out-of-jail permit seriously wounded a policeman in an exchange of fire on the northern edge of Paris.

There have been several instances of prisoners escaping while on prison leave in recent weeks, including a convict who was allowed to go on a mountain-biking trip with other prisoners.

Another man, in prison for rape, escaped while on a leave of absence and went on to rape and stab a hiker in the eastern Alsace region.

The protests come nine months after the French police force was praised for hunting down the three gunmen who killed 17 people, including staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Three of the dead were police officers.

"The police, heroes in January, have been forgotten," police union spokesman Jean-Claude Delage was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

The unions say that all too often they arrest the same people over again who pass through the courts only to be released shortly afterwards.

They complain that increased violence on the streets of Paris is coming at a time when resources are at a minimum and the police force itself is over-stretched with an unclear mission.

The pressure is unlikely to diminish in the next few weeks because France is hosting the UN climate conference in December and the Euro 2016 football championship in June and July.

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