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Christophe Castaner.Twitter
Paris

Security protection units for French ministers ‘exhausted’

Of the 61 French gendarmes who were charged on Thursday to escort two French high officials, 48 were off work.

Published: April 27, 2019, 8:41 am

    Every Saturday, since mid-November, French security forces have had to face the anger of the Yellow Vests, and as a result, the police are exhausted.

    Also, it is not surprising that some go on sick leave to preserve their mental and physical health. This is exactly what happened on Thursday, April 25, reported regional daily Ouest-France. While the two secretaries of state Laurent Nunez and Marlène Schiappa had to go to Tours, in Indre-et-Loire, only 13 Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité officers, instead of the 61 that make up the CRS 51 unit, were present to escort them.

    And for good reason, since 48 of them called in sick on the same morning as a way for them to express their anger with the government. “They are exhausted, physically and morally,” confirmed Christophe Granger, delegate of the Unsa Police union, who spoke to the local newspaper.

    Granger explained that officers have been “on the edge for months now” . The union policeman sounded the alarm once more. “Their physiological well-being is not respected. They are being deployed at a frantic pace. They can do 35 hours in two days. Some are close to burn-out,” he says.

    The careless attitude of the authorities may soon come at a high price, because these police officers who are being exploited, do”not to have the gratitude of their management”.

    Another CRS member also shared the distress of officers with the daily newspaper. “We did 88 hours in a week,” he explained indignantly. The timetable they follow, is indeed daunting. “On Monday, we had a 15-hour shift at 3 am in Tours. Tuesday, following the shootings in Nantes, we worked from 17 hours to 3 am in the neighbourhoods of Nantes. Wednesday, from 6 pm to 11 pm, in Tours. And we were supposed to start this Thursday morning at 6 am for the Secretary of State’s trip. We can not do this anymore!” he added, visibly distraught.

    Some CRS officers have urgently requested a crisis meeting. As a result, a monitoring unit on psychosocial risks has been put in place. If the current administration neglects its police forces, they may well end up joining the Yellow Vests.

    “If the job remains so intensive and the central management does not want to put in place the solutions that we offer them, the movement could be extended to other companies,” warned Unsa in the columns of the daily.

    It is ultimately the CRS 13 unit, based in Saint-Brieuc, Côtes-d’Armor, which had to take over from their colleagues in the CRS 51 unit, and they are also not sure if they can shoulder the heavy burden. “We understand our colleagues. They’re right. We too, can not take anymore,” said a police officer.

    The CRS, are the general reserve of the French National Police, primarily involved in general security missions but the task for which they are best known is crowd and riot control.

    There are 60 “general service” CRS companies, specialised in public order and crowd control, nine “motorway” companies [Compagnies autoroutières] specialised in highway patrol in urban areas and six “zonal” motorcycle units.

    Two additional companies and several mountain detachments administratively attached to local companies focus on Mountain Rescue, while one company (CRS 1) specializes in VIP escort. The National Police band is also a CRS unit.

    The French Head of State and the Minister of the Interior has meanwhile been keeping abreast of the plans of the “black block” supporters of the Yellow Vests.

    “In anticipation of Act XXIII of the Yellow Vests on Saturday, April 20, during which these ultras had planned to go in large numbers to the capital, Emmanuel Macron and Christophe Castaner acted in the shadows,” reported Paris Match.

    According to the weekly, the head of state and the Minister of the Interior have tried to keep abreast of their plans, infiltrating their networks under the guise of pseudonyms.

    Spying on protesters is neccessary to react faster and better in case of overflows, according to Christophe Castaner. He has been able to count on his “Avengers”, as he calls them, namely the police chiefs, gendarmerie chiefs and intelligence agents, all gathered Place Beauvau to follow the evolution of the next event.

    Castaner has actually made the habit of spying on Yellow Vest networks.  Access to the “Situation Room” is restricted at the French Ministry of the Interior, where everything is broadcast live on screen. At his request, the Minister can zoom in on any detail of the protesters, even a face, or a bag.

    Secretary of State Laurent Nunez usually sits in the front row and announces the live movements to Castaner. “Better to have them [Yellow Vests] in one place than scattered in small groups in Paris,” he says.

    The clock is ticking for the minister, however. “His reputation has resulted in his chronic unpopularity,” Frédéric Dabi, deputy general director of Ifop Institute, noted about Castaner. In the latest barometer for Paris Match, only 28 percent of respondents have a good opinion of the Minister of the Interior.

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