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France unveils plan to cut police suicides

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France unveils plan to cut police suicides
These new graduates at the French Prefecture de Police will be given greater psychological support to prevent suicides. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP
11:22 CET+01:00
France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has unveiled a new plan to tackle the taboo subject of suicides in the police force after a sharp rise in the number of officers taking their own lives.

Cazeneuve  announced on Wednesday a series of measures to fight the growing crisis in the French police that has seen a dramatic rise in the number of suicides.

As part of the plan seven extra psychologists will be recruited for the police forces most in need. More psychologists will also recruited in police training schools, Le Parisien reported.

Police officers will get individual lockers where they can leave their weapon after work, with around 2,300 planned in the departement of Val d’Oise. This measure is aimed at stopping officers committing suicide using their service firearms in their own homes. 

Praising the courage of the police in the weeks after the Paris terror attacks, the minister added that he intended to “improve the quality of life at work” by promoting a healthier work-life balance.

The minister said he would also consider changing working hours to allow more time for a private life.

Cazeneuve’s plans were unveiled on the same day that another police officer, aged 43, reportedly took her own life with her service firearm. Her suicide brings the total number of suicides since January 2014 to 56.

Between January and November last year a total of 50 police officers took their lives. That compares to 40 last year and 43 in 2011 and 2012.

Since then the government has been under increasing pressure to act.

David-Olivier Reverdy from the police union Alliance told The Local at the end of last year 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”. 

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