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 militarisation police ENG

  • Over the last few years, French law enforcement forces have received an increasing amount of military equipment. The prevailing idea in both public debate and government policies is that ‘security’ is achieved solely through military responses has been associated with a growing militarisation of policing in France.
  • Militarisation inevitably leads to an escalation of violence. The easy availability of weapons, whether at local/national/European levels, increases the chances that these weapons will be (mis)used. As of November 2019, a year of ‘yellow jacket’ demonstrations saw 2 deaths, 316 head injuries, 25 mutilated, 5 dismembered hands and thousands of other injured protesters.

The weapons France exports

  • France frequently exports its law enforcement weapons (such as the Alsetex 56mm tear gas grenades) to Egypt, Lebanon and the Ivory Coast (former French mandates or colonies).
  • In 2018, Amnesty International France (AIF) estimated the number of French arms delivered to the Egyptian army between 2012 and 2017 to be worth more than €4BN. AIF also denounced the use of armoured vehicles delivered by France during the repression of Egyptian protests; the toll of the August 14, 2013 demonstration reached 1000 fatalities. ·
  • A major sales point for international arms dealers for this type of weapon is the MILIPOL arms fair, which takes place every two years on French territory (alternating with Eurosatory).

Policing, french-style

  • The police possess a large arsenal of weapons for use against protesters, most of whom are peaceful.
  • Classified by the Ministry of the Interior as "non-lethal" or "reduced lethality", these weapons are, in practice, extremely dangerous. For example, the group Désarmons-Les reports serious injuries and even deaths related to grenades or LBD 40.
  • It is extremely difficult to know how frequently these weapons are employed or the extent to which force is used. These figures are kept by the police and are not publicly available. According to ACAT-France, LBD fire has increased steadily each year: +61% in 2018, +200% for ammunition and +296% for crowd dispersal grenades.
  • The increasing use of these weapons, particularly in public order situations, means it’s impossible to limit their usage to ‘theoretical conditions’ and making them a more widespread risk.
  • According to the National Commission on Security Ethics (2011) and the Defender of Rights (2015), LBD 40 should no longer be used in law enforcement, because they are too dangerous.

Health and psychological risks

  • The public health risks of spreading covid-19 are increased by the use of tear gas, according to the Omega Research Foundation (ORF). It recommends a very restricted use of tear gas as it causes runny noses, watery eyes, severe coughing, thus enabling the virus to spread swiftly.·
  • However, the French police used tear gas during demonstrations on June 2, 2020 as well as "hundreds" of tear gas grenades on June 13, 2020. Also noteworthy are the psychological risks and traumatic consequences described by some protesters.

 Historically, policing and police violence in France are inseparable from racism (CQEA, 2020; Blanchard, 2020).

Policing regulations

  • Police equipment usage must be in accordance with the doctrine of law enforcement.
  • This new approach draws on feedback from overseas territories or "zones to be defended" (ZADs) as well as from the ‘banlieux’ (deprived inner-city areas). Historically, the practice of policing and police violence in France are inseparable from racism (QCEA, 2020; Blanchard, 2020).
  • This doctrine currently follows Paris Prefect Didier Lallement's strategy, in place since March 16, 2019. The law enforcement officers' non-confrontational technique has now been replaced by using mobile units approaching protesters in order to arrest them. ·
  • Some of these brigades, such as the “BRAVM”, are not specialised in law enforcement, a fact criticised by other bodies of the police or gendarmerie. ·
  • Some methods used based on this doctrine's approach, such as ‘kettling’, forcing demonstrators to lie face down to reduce their air supply or the choke hold, are very controversial, legally questionable, and do not guarantee better protection while increasing the lethal risks. Other available methods are both viable and effective in de-escalating tensions and reducing violence.

A social and democratic crisis

 France has expressed concern about its citizens’ loss of confidence in the police,as illustrated by this graph from the European Social Survey:

ESSTrust in police fairness

A social and democratic crisis

  • Law enforcement is a cornerstone of democracy and whose goal is to protect a nation’s citizens. The democratic and social crisis observed over the past few years has recently intensified with the draft "Sécurité Globale" bill in November 2020.
  • This proposed law will, for example, authorise the use of drones by the police, extend the authorisation for off-duty police officers to carry weapons, extend the powers of the municipal police and even limit the publication of photos or videos showing images of the police.


alternatives BP police militarisation eng version 


You can download this document in PDF format by following this link: Briefing Paper: police militarisation and policing in France

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