French police to start wearing body cameras

Thousands of special body-mounted cameras have been ordered for the country’s police service after the Interior Ministry backed a plan that is aimed at cutting the number of attacks on police.

French police to start wearing body cameras
Mobile, body-mounted cameras like the one seen above are to be worn by French police in future. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

The famous blue uniform of the French police will have a subtle extra addition in future after authorities decided to equip thousands of officers with special body-mounted cameras.

Around 4, 500 have been ordered and will be worn mainly by officers working in high crime areas, the country’s Interior Ministry confirmed this week.

According to Le Figaro, which first reported the story, the cameras weigh 235 grams and contain six hours of memory.

They are mainly designed to record footage of identity checks in the street. The objective is to record evidence of any sensitive arrests or stops as well as dissuade people from being aggressive.

It will be up to police whether or not the start the recording.

Officers in France’s gendarmerie – which works in mainly rural areas will also be equipped with the cameras in the future.

The cameras were given the green light after a year-long experiment proved successful, with police unions reporting that people behaved differently when they were arrested if they noticed they were being filmed.

“It also takes a huge burden off the police,” Richard Mousset, General Secretary of the SDPM union told France 24. “Very often suspects who have been arrested make complaints of police abuse or racism and these are nearly always followed-up with some kind of enquiry.”

“With filmed evidence, these complaints are obviously far fewer,” he added. “The police can do their jobs with confidence.”

Critics, however, say the fact police can decide when to start recording means the cameras will offer no guarantee that the officers will behave in the right way.

In May this year police chiefs in London also decided that officers would start wearing cameras in a bid to improve transparency and boost convictions. A trial saw 500 devices distributed across London.

Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "Our experience of using cameras already shows that people are more likely to plead guilty when they know we have captured the incident.

"That speeds up justice, puts offenders behind bars more quickly and protects potential victims."

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French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.