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Police, observers sceptical of Macron’s community policing plan
French President Emmanuel Macron wants to create community police forces in French cities. National police feel overstretched, working overtime on anti-terrorism patrols, and have faced protests over alleged brutality. Macron wants to bring them closer to local communities, though it is not a new concept, and not everyone welcomes it.
In a speech to a roomful of police officers on Wednesday week, Macron said he wants to create a new force to handle day-to-day security, which sounds a lot like the community police put in place by a Socialist government in 1997.
Those forces were scrapped in 2003 by Nicolas Sarkzoy when he was interior minister. He famously blamed the community police for spending too much time playing games with local youths and not enough cracking down on crime.
But Laurent Muccelli, a professor at the University of Aix-Marseille, says the decision was political.
Community policing works, he says, to prevent local crime but also to address bigger problems, like terrorism. He gives the example of the 2016 attack on the Bastille day celebrations Nice:
“Nice is probably the city that is most secured by police, with CCTV, etcetera," he comments. "After the attack, police tried to find out about the terrorist and they discovered that people around him knew that he had changed, started drinking and smoking, and things like that. Many people knew, but not the police. Because there was nobody on the street, to watch, to listen, to collect information.”
Macron wants police to be in communities but insists that he is not going back to the previous model. This could be politics talking, as he is attempting to walk a line between the past polices of the left and the right.
Police want resources
But police and observers wonder what he is really proposing. The president said there will be experiments starting in January, but he was not clear who will do the policing and with what means.
“What our colleagues are missing the most is material and personnel,” says Emmanuel Roux, a police chief, who previously headed the union of police chiefs.
Local policing is like “microsurgery” he says: each community needs a different approach.
Mucelli does not believe that Macron has a well-thought-out plan.
“He made a nice speech but it was very general, without any concrete analysis,” says Muccelli. “I’m not sure we’ll progress on this road to community police.”