French police lifeguards get guns for summer beach patrol

Authorities in France have given specialist police lifeguards the right to carry arms when they patrol French beaches this summer. It marks a first in France.

French police lifeguards get guns for summer beach patrol
Photo: AFP

The move is a direct consequence of the terror threat facing French police that brutally revealed itself in the double murder of a policeman and his partner at their home in Magnanville near Paris earlier this month.

As a result CRS lifeguards who monitor some of the busier beaches in France will have the right to carry their guns, Europe1 radio reported.

“This is the first time that these officers will be armed. Normally throughout July and August they are in their swim suits and unarmed,” said Nicolas Comte from the SGP-FO police union.

Only those officers in charge of first aid centres will be able to carry their weapons or their replacements.

Their weapons will be kept in special cases that are adapted specially for the swimwear worn by officers.

While the measure might sound and look extreme, police officers in France are increasingly fearful of the threat against them.

The measure is necessary to “ensure their safety,” said Comte.

“We can see these days that the police are the target of terrorists, but this is also to ensure the police are ready to respond in the event of an armed attack,” said Comte.

“This is a win-win situation for everyone. It means that there are people to provide security for everyone when they are on the beach,” the union official added.

Comte said that the French public and tourists should not be alarmed by the measure, however.

“Holidaymakers will not see police in heavy armour, they will see lifeguards,” he said.

The number of CRS police stationed at beach resorts this summer, however, will be significantly reduced due to the need to post them elsewhere during the state of emergency.

According to French media LCI there will be 297 officers on duty to patrol beaches this year compared to 460 last year.

The move to allow police lifeguards to carry their guns is just the latest measure made at the behest of a worried police force in France.

After the double murder at Magnanville, the French government said it would allow police in France to carry their arms at all times even while off duty.

Initially that measure was brought in for the duration of the state of emergency, which is due to come to an end before August. 

But the brutal killing persuaded the government to make the move permanent.



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US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.