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France's police watchdog investigates itself

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Police stage an operation in Marseille AFP

France's police watchdog is to investigate one of its own commanders, following charges of unjustified and wasteful investigations in the southern city of Nice.


Didier Cristini, the head of the Inspection générale de la police nationale (IGPN) in Nice, has made himself unpopular with police in the area and is suspected of being a little too zealous in the pursuit of his work.

Nothing unusual in that, given that the IGPN looks into charges of corruption and other wrongdoing in the force.

But Cristini, who was put in charge of the unit when it was created to take the strain off regional headquarters in Marseille in 2013, faces complaints from some of his own staff and accusations that at least one of his unit's inquiries proved to be based on complete inventions, according to the investigative website Mediapart.

In July national IGPN officials started interviewing Nice officers about complaints against their boss.

The head of Nice's drugs, prostitution and paedophilia squad, Christian Hirsoil, filed a report accusing the local IGPN of "unfair procedures, bordering on harassment" during three separate inquiries into his unit.

In another case Cristini ordered an investigation into police in the nearby town of Grasse, following accusations of corruption by a small-time drug dealer who eventually admitted that he had made up the charges.

Finally, two members of the IGPN have complained about their boss to higher-ups and Cristini has been encouraged to "take a long summer holiday", according to Mediapart.

The national head of the IGPN, Marie-France Monéger, stood by Cristini when challenged by Mediapart, however.

"He doesn't deserive the criticisms people are making," she said. "He is serious, loyal and honest and takes his work seriously."

She did admit that he does not communicate well with his colleagues but insisted that the Grasse inquiry had to take place.

Of the accusations against the Nice police, one has proved to be true, another false and the third is still being investigated, she said.

Before moving to Nice, Cristini headed the Marseille IGPN.

An inquiry there led to the dissolution of one unit and the suspension of 30 officers.

But it is still going on and most of the accusations made by a former member of the unit seem not to have been proved.