France's Hollande may ease self-defence rules for police amid protests

Police have said they are no longer sufficiently equipped even to defend themselves.

FILE: French President Francois Hollande. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

PARIS - France may make it easier for police to defend themselves under new measures laid out by Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Wednesday, as police protested across the country.

Other proposed measures include doubling sanctions for insulting police, easing conditions to wear hoods to better protect the identity of police officers and £222.78 million to buy new equipment, Cazeneuve said after a meeting with President Francois Hollande and police unions.

A draft law should be submitted by the end of November, he said.

"All these measures ... are aimed to make into law provisions that will protect law enforcement officers and impose the respect they deserve," Cazeneuve said.

Strained by an 11-month state of emergency triggered by attacks in Paris last November, police have said they are no longer sufficiently equipped even to defend themselves.

About a thousand people protested in the streets of Paris on Wednesday in support of police demands. Some 15,000 people demonstrated in total across France, according to Unite SGP police union. There have been 10 days of demonstrations.

"These are strong signals," said Yves Lefebvre, a union official for Unite SGP police union, after the meeting with Hollande.

"It should be swiftly materialised to end the legitimate discontent expressed by police," said Jean-Marc Bailleul, a CFDT union official.

Pressure has been mounting on Hollande since the start of the demonstrations as opponents demand a tougher stance on crime.

Right-wing opponent Alain Juppe, who polls suggest could become France's president in next year's election, decried what he called a loss of authority in the country, as did Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also running for president.
Media coverage of law and order problems frequently mounts before elections.

Eighty-eight percent of French either support or have sympathy for the police, according to a poll of 997 people issued on Wednesday by a polling firm for news network BFM TV.

Another poll, undertaken by Ifop and commissioned by French website Atlantico, showed that 91% of respondents considered police's demonstrations "justified".