ER Editor: See also this AFP report picked up yesterday by The Local, titled ‘I see colleagues crying’ French police explain why morale has reached rock bottom. The number of suicides has reached 52 this year (see photo below) with 3 months of the year still to go, compared to 35 for the whole of last year. Officers still have to be paid for 23 million overtime hours; their pensions are being attacked, as are pensions of the whole of the French under Macron; the level of violence toward the police and emergency services in the very rough areas of French cities are creating heightened physical threats and psychological pressure; and the Gilets Jaunes’ (Yellow Vest) protests have had them working a lot of extra time every weekend since November 17 last year.
‘March of anger’: Thousands of cops protest in Paris over working conditions, pension reforms & suicides
The center of Paris was paralyzed by the largest rally of police officers in years; they say they are in total despair after being abandoned by the government.
More than 20,000 police officers of different ranks – from operatives and commissioners to administrative staff – marched from Bastille to the Republic Square in the French capital on Wednesday, according to organizers.
They chanted slogans and carried union flags and banners with messages such as: “National Police are angry” and “Hands off the cops” among others. Flares were also lit, much to the delight of the crowd.
Several officers also brought a cardboard replica of a coffin with them to the protests to commemorate their colleagues who reportedly took their own lives this year due to tough working conditions. There have already been some 52 suicides among French police officers in 2019, local media says. Meanwhile, the annual average is standing at 42.
“The police have no money. Salaries keep falling. Our status and our pensions are being attacked,” one of the policemen told RT, explaining officers are tired of the work overload brought by the Yellow Vest protests, “which makes them sacrifice their family life.”
His colleagues echoed his concern about the “working conditions… and the overall lack of resources.”
“Officers from all of France” arrived in the capital to decry attempts to shush the high suicide rate in the police and tell the government that the law enforcers are “short of staff; short of money and we just can’t do their job,” another policemen reiterated.
Police have been on high alert since November 2015 when more than 130 people were killed in terrorist attacks in Paris and the pressure on the force has been mounting since.
France hosted the UEFA Euro 2016, which required unprecedented security measures. Since last year, there have also been weekly Yellow Vest protests in cities across the country which have frequently spiraled out of control.
The officers claim the government still owes them for 23 million hours of overtime, which it had agreed to pay them last year. They also say their job has become more dangerous, as the number of attacks against police rose by 15 percent in 2019.
A parliamentary report earlier this year raised the alarm over numerous police stations in France in poor condition and officers having to use old cars.
Another sticking point is the planned pension reform, which, the officers fear, could deprive them of their traditional perks. Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, vowed that “dangerousness of their profession” will be taken into consideration, but said nothing about the police staff occupying non-operative jobs.
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