Three hundred police officers from all over France gathered for three days at the Palais des Congrès in Perpignan for the Alliance’s national council. On the agenda: use of weapons, self-defense, legal protection… but also at the top of the priorities this Thursday, November 9, 2023, the preparation of a motion for the attention of Gérald Darmanin in view of the 2024 Olympic Games. For Secretary General Fabien Vanhemelryck, “ the balance of power” in sight. Just like the countdown…
Riots, anti-Semitic acts, violence, terrorism… how does a police officer work today?
Fabien Vanhemelryck : The police are confronted with all the ills of society. We need equipment, of course, but also legal resources, because the police feel unprotected and abandoned by the legal system. The police do not refuse to intervene. But they go there with fear in their stomachs. Because on the one hand they are not safe and hope that nothing happens, because if they have to draw their gun, they know they risk ending up in jail.
Were the riots a turning point in the practice of the profession?
For years we have said that there is an increase in violence, that we are close to an uprising and chaos. The politicians don’t hear us. Nothing is being done to prevent this from happening again. If you loot a store and there is no penalty, during the next riot you tell yourself that you can destroy everything and break the cop even more. And we are on the eve of the Olympic Games…
How do you see this event from the police side?
On paper it seems very difficult, almost impossible. We are in a critical situation because there are flaws in the organization. Strategic choices have been made, such as the ceremony on the banks of the Seine, where we will find ourselves in difficulties and uncertainty. Then we will ask the police officers to go to Paris on a voluntary basis, we will ask for 100% staff attendance, we will cancel all leave for next summer, but nothing is planned for housing, for reimbursement of expenses, for childcare. And if we take the staff in Perpignan for example, crime will not stop. How do we do it? Nothing is certain. Not even the hourly cycles, nor the missions.
So what is your means of action?
Here in Perpignan we have decided to draw up a motion for the attention of the Ministry of the Interior. It is an ‘ultimatum’ with a deadline of December 31. Rugby World Cup, coming from the Pope… we’re still here. If they don’t make an effort, some police officers may not respond. This is the beginning of a great soap opera…
“I think the Home Secretary should have made a one-hour return trip to Perpignan”
Gérald Darmanin’s visit was planned for this National Council…
He was asked to reassure colleagues and ease the tension. Unfortunately he could not come because he is busy with immigration law. But I think he would have had to travel an hour each way to speak to 300 police officers. Too bad for him. He supported the police, that was true at the time of the negotiations. But we only caught up. Today the balance of power between the minister and the National Police Alliance is being launched. He has until the end of the year to meet our expectations. Otherwise, the increase in strength will be greater.
What are your ways to improve your daily life?
The police must be legally protected. One of our colleagues is currently in prison, of course there is still time for the investigation, but he is immediately pilloried and the justice system enjoys emphasizing its firmness towards the police, but not towards individuals. The government is telling us we have never been so strict, I find it hard to believe. There is the punishment that is imposed, the punishment that is pronounced and the punishment that is actually carried out. We arrest people who are released with a smile from ear to ear. We demand the immediacy of the verdict, the Netherlands, for example, has done this and the educational virtues are there.
Do you continue to rely on the presumption of self-defense?
Yes. When a colleague uses his weapon, he must automatically justify himself, because there is a 10 or 15 second video broadcast on social networks that allows all interpretations. In addition, some politicians advocate hatred against the police. We defend the 2017 law (which relaxed the conditions for the use of weapons by police officers, editor’s note) that some deputies want to question. We don’t ask for a license to kill, but police practices are legitimate. Between 2017 and 2022, gun use fell by 22%. Despite everything, there is still a risk of deaths from refusals to comply, which is becoming more and more numerous, with 12,000 police officers injured and 10 losing their lives every year.