Scores of police in France are “turning a blind eye to minor offences” or “calling in sick” as part of a stand against a judge’s decision to put one of their colleagues in a pre-trial detention.
The unpopular order came after a man was beaten amid last month’s riots in Marseille. The officers have answered union calls to work-to-rule, which means that, since they can’t go on strike due to the importance of their role, they will only fully operate to answer emergency calls.
The nationwide revolt was sparked by a judge’s decision to jail a police officer ahead of his trial rather than put him under supervision.
The policeman is a member of the anti-crime brigade and one of the four accused of violently attacking a 22-year-old man in Marseille earlier this month.
Following his violent encounter with the police, the youngster, known as Hedi, suffered injuries so serious he was left in a coma, during which doctors had to remove a large part of his skull.
Hedi, who has since awakened from the coma, claimed he was not part of the protest and had just left work when he and a friend came across the police officers in the early hours of July 2.
The 22-year-old, who has been left disfuguned due to the surgery, said he was shot in the head with a riot gun and beaten up so badly he partially lost vision in one eye and had his jaw broken.
Officers were caught on CCTV camera beating up the man.However, police officers protesting the judge’s decision argued it signals modern French society no longer values the work they do and how risky their job is.
Earlier this month, France’s national police chief Frédéric Veaux told French daily Le Parisien while speaking about the officer in custody: “Knowing that he is in prison is stopping me from sleeping.
“In general, I believe that ahead of a possible trial, a police officer should not be in prison, even if he may have committed serious faults or errors in the course of his work.”
Paris police chief Laurent Nuñez said on Twitter he shared Mr Veaux’s opinion.
A French officer embracing the revolt told the Telegraph: “Why are we working-to-rule? Because a police officer who leaves his house in the morning, may also find himself indicted in the afternoon and then placed in detention by the evening. For cops, there’s never a presumption of innocence. You’re guilty right away.”
The police officer said members of the force aren’t asking to be “above the law” but want to be “respected in relation to our professions”.
Many officers are also calling in sick, likely as part of the protest, leaving fewer officers available to escort suspects in court and patrol prisons.
One of the police unions, Unité SGP Police, has issued a list of demands including granting a special status for police officers in detention and anonymity for those facing legal charges.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Thursday about five percent of the police force was refusing to work or was off sick.
The Marseille officer in custody was the only one in the group to have been carrying a riot gun and is identifiable on camera by his T-shirt.
While two of those accused have acknowledged their role in the beating, he claims to remember nothing from that night, denies his involvement and said he does not recognise himself in the images.
Similarly, a fourth officer has claimed to have no recollection of the night.