In France, disproportionate police operations and – sometimes more deadly – police violence have been occurring for years. Members of the police and other security authorities stand out with connections to the extreme right Milieu, and complaints against police violence have been swept under the carpet several times. Migrants are harassed, Radical Profiling is considered a major Problem in France. Refugee aid workers, human rights activists and demonstrators also came under heavy fire. There were too many injured and too many dead.
Although the actions of the French police units are often questioned, the critical voices have once again gained relevance since the violent death of the American George Floyd. The French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner responded on 8 June in a media conference on “racism and the questioning of law enforcement”. Although he announced the end of the use of stranglehold, he did not provide any information about discriminatory practices and the Reform of the police.
“France is not the United States”
In the introduction to the media conference, Castaner said, " eight minutes forty-six seconds. For so long, George Floyd lay on the ground with a policeman’s knee on his neck. It is the duration of torment, of shame, of hatred.“Then he quickly added: “France is not the United States.”
Nevertheless, France has been fighting police violence and Radical Profiling for a long time. The excessive actions of police agents cost several lives, mostly people of foreign appearance are affected. For example, on 3 January 2020, it took only a few minutes for 42-year-old Cédric Chouviat to die as a result of a stranglehold during a police check. One of the findings of the autopsy: laryngeal fracture. It was also only a few minutes before Adama Traoré died under the same circumstances on 19 July 2016 in the gendarmerie post of Persan (Val-d’oise).
Two examples from a long series of incidents that show that France must finally act in terms of police violence and Radical Profiling.
In France there should be neither institutional racism nor targeted violence
Interior minister Castaner tried to calm the waves at the media conference and announced that gagging practices should no longer be taught in police schools in the future. But of all things, Castaner did not mention the special police handle, in which police officers fix the chest of the suspects with their knees – and which was also used with Cédric Chouviat–. The family of Chouviat demanded a ban on this practice. They confirmed the request in a letter to the minister of the interior of France, which he is said to have received on the day of the media conference.
But Castaner ignored the letter and the demand for the ban on the dangerous police attack, which in the past had also caused some deaths in France. Instead, according to Castaner, there is “no institutional racism or targeted violence"in France. There is only one Republican police force " that reflects society.”
Thousands of police exchanged racist messages
However, the facts speak a different language. In June, for example, “Streetpress” exposed the existence of a private Facebook group in which over 8,000 members of French law enforcement agencies-mainly police officers and some gendarmes – exchanged numerous racist and sexist montages, messages and comments. A few days after the release, “Streetpress” doubled down, revealing the existence of a second group in which 9,000 members, including many police officers, exchanged racist messages.
Racism in the French police apparatus is therefore not as isolated as interior minister Castaner claims. As the French online portal “mediapart” analyzes, Castaner prefers to individualize responsibility. For example, he announced that “any suspicion of racist acts or statements is systematically considered for suspension.”
Castaner also hopes that " disciplinary proceedings will always be initiated in parallel with criminal proceedings.” Other phrases: the past shows that in France administrative proceedings are regularly initiated, but only in the rarest cases suspensions of police and Gendarmerie officers are decided and enforced.
Instruction should prevent Radical Profiling
At the media conference, Castaner also took a deep look at the often denounced abusive and discriminatory identity checks in France: he wants to combat Radical Profiling by sending a simple instruction to all police and gendarmerie services, reminding them to act within the law and to exclude racism and discrimination.
This also removes a proposal by the French human rights defender (DDD) Jacques Toubon, who in his role had, among other things, defended the rights of citizens vis-à-vis the administrations and demanded that identity checks be followed in order to verify their validity.
No reform intentions visible
Regarding the Reform of the General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN) and the General Inspectorate of the National Gendarmerie (IGGN), which were supposed to be independent and had to control the work of the police and Gendarmerie, Castaner remained unclear. His only proposal: the establishment of a new control body to follow the procedures of investigations into discrimination acts and to make “suggestions on our methods”.
“Mediapart” comments: “a new monitoring body to follow up the IGPN and IGGN investigations into discrimination acts: this is a poor proposal given the often denounced bias of these bodies in relation to police violence and the number of judicial investigations they are conducting.”