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”.
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
|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
|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|
|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
|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
|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
|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|