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French police avoid making arrest for fear of being called racist

In the current context of growing racial tension, French police officers are taking no risks. A patrol insulted by a migrant gave up on arresting him to avoid a possible riot or accusations of racism.

Published: June 12, 2020, 8:41 am

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    This is the direct consequence of anti-police demonstrations that have multiplied across France since the death of African-American George Floyd. To try to ease racial animosity, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner asked, on Monday, June 8, “that a suspension be systematically considered for each proven suspicion of a racist act or speech” of a member belonging to the security forces.

    This is basically a deleterious “presumption of guilt” for all police officers, who no longer dare to make arrests, for fear of being accused of racism or violence. According to information obtained by French weekly Valeurs Actuelles, this has now happened in La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime).

    While riding a motorcycle in the afternoon of Tuesday June 9, a police patrol crossed the path of a youth who shouted “ACAB” [acronym for “Alls Cops Are Bastards”] several times to their faces. The officials proceeded to hold this individual to account. They told him that, given the current situation, his outrageous and provocative behavior was intolerable.

    But the individual continued to insult the patrol with impunity. Finally, the police let him go by greeting him politely, when in fact they could have arrested him for contempt of an agent. But for fear that an arrest would trigger a riot or that they would be accused of racism, the officers simply waved away the youth.

    The term “proven suspicion” has riled many critics. “A suspicion, that is something that can not be proven,” the general secretary of Alternative Police CFDT Denis Jacob, pointed out to BFMTV. National Rally leader Marine Le Pen and Bruno Retailleau, President of The Republicans group in the Senate, both expressed concern about a “presumption of guilt”.

    Faced with the outcry that followed his remarks, the Minister of the Interior later tried to temper this announcement, stating that this “automatic suspension procedure” would result from a preliminary investigation.

    The Minister of the Interior could also partially cancel another concession he had made to race rioters after his presentation of the plan to fight against racism and “police violence” caused a real uproar in the ranks of the police.

    The announcement of the ban on the chokehold was particularly contested. To the police, these measures sounded like concessions to anti-racist protesters. Finally, at the end of a meeting with the various unions during which he sought to calm those present, the Minister of the Interior said he would reconsider, according to information from BFMTV.

    The news channel revealed that Castaner would like the police to always be allowed to practice the chokehold, but only a respiratory one, during which the policeman rests his arm on the trachea of ​​the arrested.

    The ban on the carotid choke is said to remain effective. It consists of resting a forearm on the carotid artery of the person arrested. In addition, this technique will no longer be taught in police schools. The carotid grip has been the most widely used type of stranglehold. To perform this hold, an officer bends his or her arm around a subject’s neck, applying pressure on either side of the windpipe, but not on the windpipe itself, to slow or stop the flow of blood to the brain via the carotid arteries.

    According to BFMTV, this decision is for the moment only a gesture to calm the anger of police officers around the country, who feel abandoned by their chief. The Minister of the Interior denied that he has been backpeddling. The subtlety will eventually be in the terminology chosen during the announcement. In fact, the windpipe or trachea chokehold could change its name.

    Yves Lefebvre, Police Secretary General (Unit SGP Police FO) called on all officers to “symbolically place their handcuffs on the ground” in front of police stations.

    Protest in reaction to recent statements by Castaner on accusations of racism and violence as well as his announcements with the suspension of police officers in the event of “proven suspicion of racism” and the prohibition on the use of choking during arrests, have meanwhile multiplied.

    Several actions were carried out in Toulouse, Lyon and Nice. In Nancy on Thursday evening on Place Stanislas, around thirty officers gathered at the call of their union to express bitterness over Castaner’s statements and denouncing “police bashing”.

    Symbolically, they put down their handcuffs and activated the beacons of their vehicles.

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