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French president to meet police protesting ‘lack of resources’

Bertrand Guay, AFP | French police cars at Place de la République, in Paris, on the night of October 19, 2016

French President François Hollande said Friday he would meet disgruntled police officers who have been protesting in Paris and other cities to denounce what they say are insufficient resources to fight mounting lawlessness.


Six months from an election, the protest has put Hollande’s Socialist government on the defensive at a time when security forces are struggling to combat the threat of further terrorist attacks.

Political opponents have seized on the discontent to accuse the government of letting violent crime and everyday lawlessness proliferate despite a large police recruitment drive.

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In Paris on Thursday night, around 400 off-duty officers protested at the Place de la République and Champs Elysées avenue, the third night of protests this week.

The demonstrations have spread to other cities, with  impromptu protests taking place overnight in Bordeaux, Nancy and Toulouse.

Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed to boost security at airports, train stations and schools after a string of militant Islamist attacks in which more than 230 people have died in the past two years.

Police unions, which have already met with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, are calling for fixed minimum sentences for attacks on the police.

Hollande said early Friday that he planned to meet with police union leaders at the start of next week.

While police officers are allowed to protest like anybody else under French law, codes of conduct for law enforcement employees prohibit them from doing so during work hours, or with the use of police equipment such as official cars and uniforms.

The head of national police earlier this week told his staff to respect those rules and announced an inquiry to establish who was flouting them. Protesters have ignored his warnings and similar appeals from the government.

The catalyst for the police officers' protest movement was an attack earlier this month in which a gang of 10 unidentified assailants petrol-bombed a police patrol car stationed at a crossroads south of Paris notorious for gangland crime.

Dozens of officers in plain clothes have observed vigils the past two nights outside the Paris hospital where one of the police officers whose car was petrol bombed lies in a coma.

The 28-year-old officer sustained severe burns in the attack by youths from a notorious housing estate. His female partner was also seriously injured.


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