French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a national consultation over police reform out of fear that the public is rapidly losing confidence in state security forces.
After multiple allegations of police brutality in recent weeks, many of which have been captured on film, the president called for a national reconciliation process to hear citizen concerns regarding what many consider a new law that compromises freedom of speech and civil liberties.
Police unions are furious and have promised a coordinated mass response to the measure after being called out for racial profiling.
Macron said last week in an interview, which angered police unions, “When you have a skin colour that is not white, you are stopped much more. You are identified as part of a problem. That cannot be justified.”
Treading a fine line between public safety concerns and police concerns, Macron issued a three-page letter to a police union leader urging ongoing reform of the force.
Announcing a significant consultation process in January called the "Beauvau de securité," Macron wrote to Yves Lefebvre, of the SGP-FO police union, “It is urgent to act to beef up the trust between the French and the police forces, while at the same time give police and gendarmes the means to meet their commitments and the expectations of our citizens."
The police union welcomed the president's call for a consultation, including community leaders, elected representatives, and police representatives, and will discuss police training, staffing levels, the use of body cameras, equipment, public relations, and making the police's disciplinary body more independent.
That said, other police unions, such as Alliance, said they would not be participating in the process, stating, "Alliance would above all like those who protect us to be protected themselves. We won’t be responding to President Macron’s invitation until he responds to our demands for police protections.”
Both Macron and his Interior Minister have said they were shocked by recent footage of French security forces beating up music producer Michel Zecler in his Paris studio, as well as assaults on migrants and journalists in encampments in Paris' city center.
Despite announcing the creation of a website where citizens can report complaints of police brutality and discrimination, as well as the implementation of body cams in June, Macron stated that neither racism nor violence was systemic in the force, thus rejecting the term "police violence."
A recent poll from the Elabé Institute for BFMTV found that 60% of French people have confidence in the police, and 64% said they believed only a minority of police were violent. In contrast, another poll by IFOP suggested that the number of people confident of the police was much lower, at 37%.
A second “liberty march” to oppose the government’s global security law was disrupted on Saturday by hooded casseurs or anarchist provocateurs. The law seeks to make it illegal to film on-duty police when there is “intent” to cause them harm and allow police to use drones and facial recognition at protests.