Eight French officers including a high-profile former police chief have committed suicide in just a week sparking renewed concern among the forces of law and order and the government.
The worrying issue of the high number of suicides among French police officers is once again back on the agenda.
These latest suicides brought the number of French police officers to have taken their lives this year to 45. There have also been 16 suicides by members of France’s military police the gendarmerie nationale.
The most high profile death came on Sunday when it was revealed that France’s former police chief in charge of fighting hooliganism had been found dead in his office.
Antoine Boutonnet, whom The Local interviewed in June 2016 on the eve of Euro 2016 is believed to have used his service weapon to commit suicide.
Boutonnet’s death shocked those who knew him including the president of the French Football League Frédéric Thiriez.
“He wasn’t just a great professional but also a humanist. He became a friend,” said Thiriez.
France’s Interior Minister Gérard Collomb will meet with police unions after eight officers took their lives in a week.
He has also asked police chiefs to put together a list of recommendations aimed at cutting the number of suicides.
But French authorities seem powerless to prevent the loss of life given that in January 2015 the government had already unveiled its new plan aimed at cutting suicide numbers in the police forces.
That plan came after a black year for the forces of law and order when 55 police and 30 gendarmes took their own lives.
As part of the government’s measures seven extra psychologists were to be recruited for the police forces most in need. More psychologists were also to be recruited in police training schools.
Police officers were to get individual lockers where they can leave their weapon after work. This measure was aimed at stopping officers committing suicide using their service firearms in their own homes.
The then Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he also intended to “improve the quality of life at work” by promoting a healthier work-life balance.
He also said he would also consider changing working hours to allow more time for a private life.
Speaking to The Local at the time David-Olivier Reverdy from the police union Alliance said that there was a real crisis in the police force.
While he accepted there are always “multiple factors” behind suicides, he says the fact remains that there are fundamental problems within the French police force that is pushing many over the edge.
“Some of these suicides are clearly down to problems in their personal lives, but there is clearly a malaise among police officers,” he said.
Reverdy pointed to “archaic” management systems, working conditions, pressure from bosses, and a lack of protection from the government given the fact that “no one these days seems to be too scared to physically attack police officers”.
In recent years police officers in France have been under extra strain as they have become the targets of choice for jihadist violence.
In April last year and officer was gunned down on the Champs-Elysées and in June 2016 a police officer and his wife were stabbed to death at their home in front of their young son.
They have also been targeted by violent protesters and in May 2016 took to the streets to protest against a rise in anti-cop hatred.
“Confronted on a daily basis by human misery, violence and the worst that you can find in humans, police can no longer put up with a lack of consideration towards them, which is a factor in these tragic acts,” said the Unité-SGP-Police union.