The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, and the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, are for once in unison: the decision is “Historical”. By giving the green light on Thursday 19 November for the creation of a municipal police force in Paris, the National Assembly agreed to put an end to a particularism that dates back more than two centuries.
12 Messidor Year VIII (1is July 1800), a decree reserved the exercise of the police force in the capital to the prefect of police, and therefore to the State. It’s up to him to take care of the “Small road”, to assure « the free movement of subsistence “, to do “Inspect the markets”, “Monitor the sweeping to which the inhabitants are required in front of their houses”, etc. Since this decision by Bonaparte, several powers of the police prefect have been transferred to the City, but Paris still does not have the right to have a “real” municipal police force, unlike other municipalities in France. A trace, in part, of the tenacious mistrust of the central power towards an often rebellious city.
It is this secular distribution that the deputies agreed to review, within the framework of the bill on “global security”. presented by Macronist deputies Jean-Michel Fauvergue and Alice Thourot. Article 4, adopted on Thursday at first reading, officially opens the possibility of creating “Bodies of the municipal police in Paris”.
“No competition” with the national police
Anne Hidalgo immediately welcomed this “Historic leap”. After having been hostile to it for a long time, the socialist mayor of Paris had been campaigning since 2018 for the capital to join common law and be able to equip itself with a municipal police force, like almost all large French cities. The goal? Improve daily security in the streets of the capital, as the national police increasingly devote themselves to other missions.
The government initially blocked the project, so as not to favor a political opponent in the middle of an election campaign. At the time, the candidate of La République en Marche (LRM), Benjamin Griveaux, presented himself as the one who could really create the municipal police in Paris. Anne Hidalgo reelected, Emmanuel Macron let go. Today, it is with the total support of the State that the city council is preparing to finally constitute the body of 5,000 agents that it has been announcing for months.
“We see this in a very good light”, confirmed the prefect of police, Didier Lallement, to elected officials in Paris on Wednesday. For him, “There will be no competition between the two forces”, more “An articulation”, “a complementarity”. To the national police: maintaining order during demonstrations, the fight against terrorism, banditry, prostitution, drug trafficking…; to the future municipal police: the verbalization of badly parked cars and cyclists burning fires, surveillance of squares, the fight against street vendors …
In Paris, the right and the Macronists vigorously criticize a police seen as vulnerable
For Anne Hidalgo, this definition of tasks justifies that future municipal police officers do not have a firearm, but only, for some, a defense stick, handcuffs and tear gas. The debate is not over. In Paris, the right and the Macronists vigorously criticize a police seen as vulnerable. “Not arming our municipal police officers is to take the risk of turning them into unarmed targets”, hammer Rachida Dati and the other elected Republicans. “It is also depriving oneself of a security force for Parisians”, they add, stressing that it was the municipal police who, in Nice, made it possible to neutralize the terrorist during the attack on Notre-Dame basilica on October 29.
In the Assembly, some would have liked the law to provide for a mandatory armament of municipal police, including in Paris. A hypothesis rejected by the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin. No question of twisting the mayors’ arms.
Article 4 adopted, the course of the bill is not finished. Once this highly contested text has been voted on by the deputies, it will have to go to the Senate. Once the law is promulgated, a decree will still be necessary. “The timetable remains in the hands of the government, with real uncertainties”, notes Anne Hidalgo, who wanted to dispense with a decree, but did not win her case on this point.