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France to allow off-duty police to carry arms

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France to allow off-duty police to carry arms
A poster in the town of Beziers tells locals that municipal police "have a new friend". File Photo: AFP
08:49 CET+01:00
In a move to boost security in the light of the heightened terrorist threat France is set to take steps to make sure all of its police are armed, including those in small towns and villages and officers who are off duty.

Police in France will be able to carry their weapons while off-duty, according to reports, as France moves to increase security in the days after the capital was rocked by a series of terror attacks.

During the ongoing state of emergency which is set to last for three months, volunteer officers will be allowed to carry their side arms.

According to reports in France on Thursday the Directorate General de la Police is sending a memo out to specify the changes.

It comes after police called for the right to carry their guns while off-duty and it appears their request has been met.

Currently police are not allowed to carry their gun whilst off duty, unless travelling to and from work and on the condition they are wearing a bullet-proof vest.

But that rule should change in the coming days.

However off-duty officers will only be allowed to carry their guns under certain conditions, firstly they must have the red “Police” armband that is normally worn by plain clothes offices to avoid confusion.

If they use their gun whilst off-duty in the event of a terrorist attack, they must put on the armband.

And volunteer officers must have had a certain amount of  training before they are allowed to carry their weapons.

“We must have the means to be able to fight back,” said Denis Jacob, a police union leader.

“We cannot be telling off-duty police officers not to carry their weapons when at the same time the president has declared a state of emergency because there is a high risk of terrorism,” he added.

“I don't understand the claim that if police officers are armed 24 hours a day then the streets will be full of cowboys,” he said.

The move came after president François Hollande encouraged France's mayors to allow their municipal police to be armed.

In France the national police and the gendarmes are armed but it is left down to local authorities in towns and villages whether or not to arm the municipal police.

Currently only around 45 percent of the 3,900 municipal police carry weapons, but given the heightened terror alert and the changing nature of their role, the president wants that number increased.

Hollande told a meeting of mayors that the government will finance certain equipment and that municipal officers would be able to access the stocks of arms held by the national police. 

In January, a municipal police officer Clarissa Jean-Philippe, was gunned down by terrorist Amedy Coulibaly on the streets on Montrouge, the day before he stormed a Jewish kosher store and killed four others.

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