Two cops’ shock book on police suicides: “We don’t attack management problems”
“A policeman committed suicide in Paris shortly before he was summoned to the IGPN”, headlined our newspaper on June 24, 2022. Or in Val-d’Oise, on August 31, 2022, “a policeman from the Argenteuil police station was found dead in his house”. And the same goes for our columns throughout the year. In February, it was a police officer, attached to the BAC of Villepinte (Seine-Saint-Denis), who committed suicide at home. At the beginning of August, there was also this 37-year-old officer from the police station of Savigny-le-Temple (Seine-et-Marne) who pulled the trigger of his service weapon on post.
Due to the large number of police officers who exercise there, Île-de-France still leads this sad ranking of suicides of civil servants who mourn an entire institution. All security forces combined (municipal and national police, gendarmerie, prison guards, customs), in 2022 in France, there were 78 actions. 46 are police officers. To discuss this plague that makes it the main cause of death for trades that nevertheless prove dangerous in the field, a policeman working in Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône) and a former member of the famous northern baccalaureate of city of Marseilles which, disgusted, returned its plate and its gun, released a book with the title shock, I’m a policeman and tonight I’m going to kill myself (Ring edition).
How did you get the idea to write a book about police suicides?
LAURE GARCIA. At the beginning of 2022, there was the disastrous month of January (12 suicides this month alone). Mr. Darmanin brought together the unions and associations that arose by force from colleagues. By the end of this meeting, we had a new phone number, which was pretty incredible since we were on the third number that was established.
MARC LA MOLA. You need to have the courage to share your weaknesses with this number. The civil servant who did that would put him in the pillory. Our goal is to try to stop the phenomenon by identifying the causes.
Doing nothing? What are the functions of trade unions?
MLM They do what they can with the little means they have. They are sensitive to this phenomenon and this reason but there is no resonance at the ministry level. Almost no one listens.
LG I am a trade unionist in Unit SGP-Police so I can talk about this. They do their best to defend the interests of colleagues. But it is very difficult to bring awareness to a deaf ministry. The problem is that no one is addressing the causes of these suicides. After this dramatic month of January 2022, there was also the creation of the Sentinels. It looks good on paper. But now we have the necessary hindsight… They want to get 2,000 trained by the end of 2022, whereas in June there were only 81 trained. The ministry asked to nominate volunteers. 80% of those appointed are commanders or commissioners who are really not as close as possible to colleagues in poverty. Again, it’s pixie dust… No peacekeeper is going to this sentry who is his superior to tell him I feel bad.
MLM I was bad before my resignation, no one worried about it. At every turn, we find scoops, open free numbers… the administration is a big boat.
Figures show that more people die in law enforcement agencies from suicides than during interventions on the ground. What was your reaction?
LG Shocking. We pay tribute to gendarmes and policemen killed in the service, we do a minute of silence but we don’t do it for colleagues who committed suicide.
Once a suicide occurs, the public servant’s personal situation is often highlighted. What inspires you?
MLM Obviously, we know it is multifactorial but we never once questioned the intrinsic functioning of the police with a hierarchy and a management stolen from the worst private companies and adapted to fit into the police funnel. Most of those who commit suicide are people from the indigenous people. Commissioners who commit suicide, there is no such thing (we found in our archives some suicides of commissioners in Rennes, Toulouse or Montargis). Not once do we discuss these problems of management, of performance bonuses, of the pressure put on rank-and-file civil servants.
LG It is so vague that it is difficult to prove that the passages in the act are due to the service. When they are not good, colleagues cannot tell. And on top of that, there is all the pressure related to the work we have to do to satisfy the statistics coming back to the Ministry of the Interior. All of that is an accumulation, a pressure cooker exploding. A colleague who takes action, we generally know that this is a person who is not well, put aside. And in some cases, letters intended for families have gone missing…
How did the police hierarchy evolve?
MLM Before, we had a hierarchy which was a hierarchy of police officers who knew our job. We have that esprit de corps. Today, unfortunately, the police also resembles society. The commissariat was transformed like the hospital, which was run by doctors and is now run by enarchs. I am calling the body caste commissioners. Most of them are real managers. They are not many, 1700, and they protect themselves. They set up a management that helps a lot to clean up where the police slipped.
LG For example, the focus is on tort fixed fines that will extend to other offenses such as larceny. A fixed tort fine is equivalent to a certain fact and is very easy to do. Civil servants, even in the emergency police, are required to pay a fixed fine each day. This pressure, colleagues can no longer handle. We become a ciphered police, a company police where the head of the company, the superintendent, asks: Please note, I need my tort fixed fines to have good statistics to present at the weekly DDSP meeting (Director of the Department of Public Security), who will show them to the prefect and so on. A tort fixed fine could be a good thing to unblock the procedure but is diverted to make clear cases. And the heads of departments get huge bonuses based on those numbers, representation and performance allowances (IRP). At the same time, the peacekeepers will fight for a bonus of 500 euros at the end of the year.
Did you ask the administration for permission before writing this book?
LG Just before release, I gave a copy to my manager so he knew what to expect. Every time I have media interventions, I warn. I have no feedback.
MLM Is this silence contempt? This is quite surprising. This is a subject that scares the central administration and the ministry. We are not in controversy but in the defense of colleagues.
And what are your colleagues saying?
LG They tell us: We can write it ourselves. It is good for them, finally it is written. We also had feedback from bereaved families.
“I am a policeman and tonight I will kill myself”, by Marc La Mola and Laure Garcia, Ring edition, 18 euros