Director General of the French National Police Frederic Veaux (L) and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin EPA-EFE/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL MAXPPP OUT


French Government ‘folds’ to police demands


The French Government appears to have folded over demands from police unions in France.

Following days of tense negotiations between law enforcement representatives and the government, the police said French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has promised to meet many of their union demands. Darmanin, for his part, has switched from his previous silence to full-throated support of the police.

“I will be the first to defend their honour”, he said. The statement may also be seen as a reference to those policemen whose imprisonment on brutality accusations sparked off the struggle with the unions.

Following the country-wide riots caused by the shooting dead of the North African teenager Nahel on June 27, resulting in demonstrations that left several French cities ablaze on a number of nights, Macron’s government was soon confronted with a fresh problem.

Over the course of the riots, several policemen were placed in pre-trial detention on suspicion of brutality. This led to outrage among leading police officials and union representatives.

During the unrest, many police officers were identified by rioters and threatened with violence in their own homes.

The feeling among police chiefs that their officers received unfair treatment at the hands of the press and politicians further led to fears for their safety.

Darmanin added that law enforcement agents believe “the media trial prevails over the judicial trial” when it comes to suspected police officers.

Olivier Varlet, the general secretary of the UNSA Police union, said its demands centred on preserving the principle of “presumption of innocence” for officers facing allegations.

The row between the government and the unions kicked off when one of the leading police officials in France said that accused officers should not be held in jail before they were tried.

The Director General of the National Police, Frédéric Veaux, said: “Before a possible trial, a police officer has no place in prison, even if he may have committed serious faults or errors in the course of his work.”

This provoked the ire of French President Emmanuel Macron and many others in government who accused the police of trying to give themselves “special” legal status and treatment.

The French press referred to the ensuing police action as the Fronde, a title given to the series of 17th Century Civil Wars between the French aristocracy and King Louis XIV.

As Darmanin was expressing his support for the police unions, Veaux could be seen looming behind him. The minister then endorsed Veaux’s remarks without hesitation.