Disgruntled by the silence of the police unions, a group of police officers responded to the incident that led to the injury of the Yellow Vest Jerome Rodrigues: "It would be appropriate to reflect on the response to this movement."
In a Facebook post dated January 28, the Autonomous Police Collective of Ile-de-France (CAP-IDF) expressed concern about the ongoing crisis of Yellow Vests and the state of public order: “The face of the police has changed, to that of the violent and repressive executioner.”
The post continued: “Our bosses gave us carte blanche to clean up the streets. The directives until now have been crystal clear: ‘Use maximum force, clean up this mess’. We see the results. More than 1 000 wounded in our ranks, while the Yellow Vests account for more than 1 600.”
The group deplored the decisions taken unilaterally by the government and the Ministry of the Interior as well as the silence of the “majority of police unions that do not say a word” before adding a warning: “The grenades are dangerous, our potato launchers (LBD) are dangerous. When many police officers are considered equally dangerous, it would be appropriate to reflect on the response given to the operational and political management of this movement.
“Since the blade is getting a little closer to our heads, colleagues, would it not be better to avoid any use of these weapons and to refuse contact in these dire conditions and to distrust the hierarchy? The cowards?”
Interviewed by RT France, the CAP spokesperson, representing an association which primarily represents field officers without any union mandate, repeated the remarks and added: “Castaner, we feel less and less arrogant, less serene. In front of the cameras, we feel vulnerable now. And this political vulnerability will affect us.”
Regarding law enforcement operations in the capital and major cities of France, the CAP readily acknowledges problems in its own ranks, but noted that the behavior on the ground corresponded to orders: “We, we listen to colleagues and we feel good that when the bosses tell us to ‘clean up all this mess’, some feel emboldened … and they do just that. The hierarchy can not plead innocence in this respect, because they hear live radio reports during the demonstrations. For prefects and ministers, it’s the same.”
The CAP spokesperson pointed out another dilemma: “Colleagues who do anything, they will have to take responsibility, but it is not necessarily those who have taken the worst action that will be the most sanctioned.”
Moreover, the CAP believes that police associations now occupy the media space vacated by the majority of unions since the beginning of the Yellow Vest crisis: “Our spokesman, Jean-Pierre Colombies, has never been as much solicited by television reporters as at this moment. The big professional representatives such as Alliance, Unité and Unsa seem happy to let us play the whistleblowers and then use our arguments during their negotiations with the Ministry of the Interior.”
The association regrets the certain apathy on the part of the unions: “They did not do anything, but it is incredible. Do you imagine the power that they currently have? If they said: ‘We stop everything, we’re tired, we drop the shields’, Macron would be obliged to do much more for the Yellow Vests and the police too! The proof, he does not want to lose us and he congratulates us even from abroad for our work. Without us, he is lost.”
The CAP warned: “We do not call to disarm, of course. Moreover, colleagues tell us that if we remove the [flashball riot gun] LBD40, they will not go anymore! But something bad will happen, we know it.”
The latest model, the LBD 40, is equipped with an electronic aiming device and fires a 40mm projectile weighing 95 grams, effective at up to 30m. It is generally used to combat urban violence, allowing officers to respond to assailants wielding knives or pellet guns without potentially killing them. But the Yellow Vests are ordinary, unarmed citizens, and often elderly.
Despite the description of flashball riot guns as a “non-lethal” weapon, they have already caused numerous injuries, disfigurations, and at least one death.
The CAP admits that “most of the incidents” is attributable to the Anti-Crime Brigades (BAC): “It’s normal, they are in the front line and they are also the ones who carry the LBD40. But it is also this operational choice that is open to criticism.
The Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS), a special mobile French police force, knows how to swing grenades, but the BACs are less used to fire grenades than the LBD40. Their territory is the suburbs, normally, and there, the instructions are to pay attention to ensure a certain social peace in a crime-infested area.
“On the other hand, when they are told to clean the Champs Elysees, this becomes open season. Moreover, I notice that at this moment, in the suburbs, it is rather quiet and the reason is simple: Nobody is has been disturbing the traffic of crime too much since the beginning of the social crisis.”