by Ollie Richardson for The Saker Blog

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(Photo taken by me on June 29th in Paris during a Yellow Vests demonstration)

I think by now most people who are interested in geopolitics are familiar with the “Yellow Vests” movement and the social unrest in France, but one topic that receives almost no mainstream media coverage (neither in the Anglophone nor French press), and which the French government deliberately ignores, is police suicide. At the time of writing – July 25th – there have been 66 police suicides in France so far in 2019. According to the President of the association “Uniformes en danger” Christelle Teixeira, 88 police officers killed themselves in 2018. At the current rate in 2019 it means that every four days a police officer kills themselves. This epidemic of suicides in the ranks of law enforcement is becoming an endemic problem that some people sometimes like to compare to the suicidal tendencies of French farmers, who have also been hit hard by socio-economic distress and drought.

Thus, according to a Senate report from June 2018, the rate of suicide in the French police is 36% higher than what is seen in the general population. Concerning farmers, the same rate was 20% to 30% higher than the average for the French population, according to a study published by the “Public Health of France” agency in 2016. It is a similar trend, but with a big difference concerning police officers and gendarmes: they all have the same employer – the state; and the same boss, the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. The plans that were launched in the past to try to solve the problem, especially in May 2018 under the leadership of Gerard Collomb, are considered to be too weak by some police officers, who cite the daily grind and the “social context that is currently tense in many socio-professional categories”, as Jean-Pierre Colombies explains.

“Christophe Castaner refused a hearing at the association ‘Angry Law Enforcement Wives’ on this topic in November 2018, which is quite evocative, but in any case, one finds oneself in such a context of social tension that one can hardly imagine fundamental work in our rigid administration. Meanwhile, in the police stations, it must be made clear that officials do not know how much they can trust their minister. These are the kind of ideas that come to us from the ground.”

“Concerning police suicides, the situation is catastrophic. A death every four days is unheard of, practically. It is unbearable for us to see this phenomenon boiled down to ‘personal problems’. When the Director of Public Order and Traffic, Alain Gibelin, resigned after a big burnout, we were told that it was the workload that caused his illness, but when it is a cop from the very beginning, we are told that it is the personal context that leads to suicide … It is therefore clear that the assessment of occupational pressure is variable depending on the department.”

Jean-Pierre Colombies proposed an idea that even he considers to be “utopian”:

“We should rethink the relationship between police and society, as well as the relationship between the administration and its police officers. Sometimes it works and there are some great service managers, I’ve known some, but you have to admit that some are real problems, very destructive people that make dialogue between the police and their administration often broken. In these cases, when occupational pressure adds to personal problems, some crack. That’s what we showed in our film.

On March 12th several police associations held a night gathering at Trocadero for the purpose of raising awareness of this cause. Despite the presence of some media, including RT France, two minority unions (VIGI and France Police), and two political figures (Senator François Grosdidier and the deputy Nicolas Dupont-Aignan), the government has not reacted to this new invitation for dialogue.

And this is not the only initiation for dialogue that has been sent to the Macron regime by a police officer. Alexandre Langlois, who was the head of a police union until recently, when he was suspended from his duties for dissent, is subject to a six-month temporary exclusion from the National Police (Police Nationale) after revealing internally and to the press a number of serious things concerning the Ministry of the Interior. Suicides, sexual assaults, falsifications of numbers, toxic tear gas (a new secret formulae being used by the police) – he rips into the government…

… whilst at the same time inviting Castaner for a debate.

After a policeman from the Cergy branch of the Regional Directorate of the Judicial Police of Versailles committed suicide in the armory of the drop-in center of the Police Judiciaire in Cergy-Pontoise (Val d’Oise) on July 24th, the “Alternative Police” union was received at Place Beauveau on July 25th by Fabrice Gardon, the police adviser of Christophe Castaner, “to address this painful subject.”

Through a press release, the “Alternative Police” union says it wants to “put an end to this slump and to this deadly crisis so that 2019 is not a year of sad recording breaking in relation to the last twenty years”. The union recalls that it alerts “the successive Interior Ministers” over the last 5 years about this situation, declares that it is necessary “to immediately tackle the causes that lead to suicide, and no longer the consequences via prevention plans whose effects remain to be demonstrated”.

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During this meeting, the union planned to send to the Interior Ministry a document entitled: “2019 -2022, the police flourish in their daily work for a national police at the height of social issues”. This “white paper” presents the “proposals” and “recommendations” of “Alternative Police” aimed at improving the working conditions and concretely fighting against the police suicide rate.

The union does not intend to stop at this meeting. It plans to catch “Emmanuel Macron’s police advisor, Mr. Hottiaux”, and “the Prime Minister in order to obtain a government commitment”. It also asks that the public authorities organize “without delay real high-level talks in the National Police”.

“Alternative Police considers that the whole of the government must face up to this suffering and this ill-being in order to meet the strong expectation of the police.”

Back in April Castaner announced the opening of a “warning prevention” hotline based in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, designed to prevent police suicides, and said that suicides in the police were not a “fatality” and that it was necessary “break the silence”. It is headed by a police officer, a member of the Inspectorate General of the Administration, and a psychiatry professor. However, it doesn’t appear that this hotline is making much of a difference.

On June 21st the politician Eric Ciotti criticised Christophe Castaner for not having settled the issue of overtime owed to the police, which he estimates to be at €300m. The Interior Minister retorted sharply by saying “No, I do not owe anything to them”.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, Christophe Castaner, who, like his colleagues, is also embroiled in scandal after scandal, actually awarded police officers that are involved in open police violence inquiries launched by wounded Yellow Vests. On June 16th he awarded at least 5 officers who are suspected of violating the law: Rabah Souchi, who led the police charge that caused the injuries sustained by Geneviève Legay, and Bruno Félix, who commanded the police who killed the peaceful resident Zineb Redouane in Marseille during a Yellow Vests protest, are two examples.

In reality I have only skimmed the surface of the police problem in France, but the main takeaway from this article should be the fact that there is a police suicide epidemic happening in the country. And in order to emphasise this point, I have consulted as many law enforcement unions as possible concerning information about the 66 (at the time of writing) suicides so far in 2019 and created the table below. Imagining what the data will look like by December 31st sends a shiver down my spine…

No. Date (2019) Region Department Name/initials and/or age (if known) Media report (if available)
1 January 1st La Rochelle Police Nationale J.B. charentelibre
2 January 2nd Cherbourg Police Nationale lamanchelibre
3 January 4th Reims Police Nationale actu17
4 January 7th La Rochelle Police Nationale L.M. charentelibre
5 January 15th Paris Police Nationale Jordan R. actu17
voltage
6 January 16th Saint Omer Police Nationale Stan, 42 actu17
7 January 16th Paris Police Nationale Julien actu17
8 January 17th Paris Police Nationale
9 January 20th Bédenac Surveillant pénitentiaire lefigaro
10 January 24th Le Mans Police Nationale actu17
11 January 27th Not disclosed Police Nationale
12 January 27th Not disclosed Police Nationale
13 February 14th Martinique Police Nationale actupenit
14 February 18th Louvigné/Laval Police Nationale francesoir
ouest-france
15 February 19th Grand-Quevilly Police Nationale Sebastien profession-gendarme
16 February 26th Montpellier Police Ferroviaire
17 March 4th Elancourt Police Nationale Mickaël leparisien
18 March 5th Dunkerque Police Nationale
19 March 5th Limoges Police Nationale ladepeche
20 March 7th Saint Saëns Police Nationale francesoir
21 March 9th Selles sur Cher Gendarmerie Nationale Romain, 32 actu17
22 March 13th Roissy en France Vigipirate 24 lavoixdunord
23 March 15th Limay Police Nationale Sébastien leparisien
24 March 19th Paris Police Nationale europe1
25 March 28th Bailleval Police Nationale francetvinfo
26 April 1st Paris Police Nationale
27 April 2nd Toulouse Surveillant Pénitentiaire centpourcent
28 April 2nd Marlieux Police Nationale Jean-François B. francetvinfo
29 April 6th Avignon Police Municipale midilibre
30 April 7th Conflans Police Nationale leparisien
31 April 7th Alès Police Nationale Christophe ladepeche
32 April 9th Orsay Gendarmerie Nationale Willy actu17
33 April 14th Paris Police Nationale leparisien
34 April 16th Metz Police Nationale Damien LCI
35 April 16th Bèziers Police Municipale francetvinfo
36 April 18th Montpellier Police Nationale Elisabeth G. francetvinfo
37 April 18th Paris Police Nationale 25 leparisien
38 April 24th Paray le Monial Police Municipale Jean-Christophe actu17
39 April 28th Gap Vigipirate rtl
40 April 30th La réunion Gendarmerie Nationale Ludovic D. lepoint
41 May 5th Cholet Police Municipale Eric francetvinfo
42 May 6th Aunay sur Odon Gendarmerie Nationale actu
43 May 11th Orange Police Municipale ledauphine
44 May 13th Briançon Gendarmerie Nationale Quentin lessor
45 May 17th Lons le Saunier Gendarmerie Nationale francetvinfo
46 May 22nd Lille Police Nationale Mickaël actupenit
47 May 24th Nice Police Municipale
48 May 25th Chessy Police Nationale Baptiste leparisien
actu17
49 May 31st Not disclosed Police Nationale Pascal B. actu17
50 June 2nd Fougères Gendarmerie Nationale Jean F. francesoir
51 June 13th Paris Police Nationale Benoit actu17
52 June 14th Fos sur mer Police Municipale Mickaël, 29 Syndicat de Défense des Policiers Municipaux
53 June 20th Paris Police Nationale Jean-Louis B. actu17
54 June 21st Toulouse Police Nationale nouvelobs
20minutes
55 June 25th Nimes Gendarmerie Nationale RT France
56 June 28th Bruay la Buissière Police Nationale Eric P.
57 June 29th Marseille Police Nationale Gérard B., 50 FranceInfo
laprovence
58 July 5th Bordeaux Police Nationale Caroline, 44 francebleu
59 July 8th Annecy Police Nationale ledauphine
60 July 12th Castelnau de Médoc Gendarmerie Nationale francebleu
61 July 14th Not disclosed Vigipirate
62 July 16th Douai Police Nationale Jean-Marc, 49
63 July 22nd Béthune Police Nationale Eric T. lavoixdunord
64 July 22nd Nimes Police Nationale Jamal Z.
65 July 23rd Isère Police Nationale Frédéric L., 49 acti17
66 July 24th Cergy Police Nationale S. actu17

 

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