Are French police officers slowly losing it? “I loaded the round, saw a protester, aimed at his head and fired without reason. I don’t know why I did that”
« Je ne l’excuse pas, mais je comprends le craquage » : les policiers face à leur propre violence dans les manifestations de « gilets jaunes » https://t.co/JPkI879wEH— Le Monde (@lemondefr) 13 mei 2019
In its article, Le Monde paints a picture of a police force caught between a rock and a hard place, on the one hand faced with (potential) violence by protesters and expected to uphold civil order, while at the other hand constantly being watched and judged for (perceived) excesses. As Le Monde says, their voices are lost in the great national debate, but their actions are broadcast over and over again in social media. Every piece of police force is labelled violence and brutality, not helped by politicians denying any violence takes place. In the words of one policeman:
“One is judged and condemned in the same second, there is no presumption of innocence for us.”
Especially in view of firearms being issued to riot police, one interview is especially worth noting. Le Monde explains that the executive wants to take a more aggressive stance with the protesters. Introducing deadly force into the equation might risk further escalation, as police are on their last legs.
Take this example: as Roxane (alias) loaded her less-than-lethal launcher, it was already late in the day of another spate of Saturday marches. Mobilised since the beginning, this round is not the first she has loaded. In fact,
“I had already fired several shots, justified shots, on persons in the act of committing offences,”‘Roxane‘
as she explains to a friend. This round, however, is exceptional:
“I loaded the round, I saw a protester, I aimed at his head and I fire, without reason.”‘Roxane‘
The target is hit, but not injured by the impact and flees. The policewoman is left with questions she cannot answer.
“I do not, for the life of me, know why I did that.”‘Roxane‘
The scene will not make the headlines. It hasn’t been filmed, the victim hasn’t been blinded. Roxane is not aware of any complaints having been filed about it. But her testimony, as reported to Le Monde, in its raw sincerity, sheds a light on the dangerous situation in France. As another policeman says:
“I don’t make excuses for it, but I understand people cracking under the stress.”
This does not bode well in this election year.