Political pawns? Wives of French police officers demand govt action amid suicide epidemic
French riot police stand in front of the Fouquet's restaurant on the Champs Elysees avenue during clashes with protesters after the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris, France, July 14, 2019
Rising street violence coupled with government inaction has created intolerable conditions for France’s police force, according to wives of officers who spoke with Ruptly. Their concerns come amid a spike in police suicides.
Weekly Yellow Vest demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron’s austerity measures have strained France’s police force, which was already experiencing fatigue due to personnel and funding shortages. So far this year, 37 cases of suicide have been reported among French police, compared with 35 cases in all of 2018.
For the spouses of serving officers, the mounting stress has become unbearable.
“Fear, anxiety, stress – I sometimes cry because of those acts of extreme violence,” the wife of a police officer told Ruptly, referring to the violent clashes between riot cops and Yellow Vest demonstrators. She said that she often worries that her husband won’t return from work.
Police forces are here to ensure safety in the country and not to be beaten up. I’m against violence from either side, but if the government does not react, [the police] won’t hold for long. It’s time to wake up.
Another woman who spoke on condition of anonymity said that her husband had been attacked by a group of people after they learned that he was a police officer. She called on the government to give more support to the police, and for France to stop “stigmatizing” them.
Responsibility for the crisis lies with the government, Michel Thooris, secretary general of the Angry Police Union (France Police - Policiers en colère), said.
“The government uses the national police force for political ends. They refuse to respond to the political demands of the Yellow Vests. They use the police simply as a tool with which to postpone a political deadline.”
In April, another police union described the rise in suicides as a “massacre.”
A senate report released last year looked at the problems facing law enforcement personnel, including grueling schedules, exhaustion, and heightened tensions caused by recent civil unrest, as well as terrorist incidents, and labelled the issue a “true crisis.”