FRANCE’S record on law and order since President Sarkozy became interior minister in 2002 has been strongly criticised in a new report by the French national audit office.
The investigation by the Cour des Comptes has condemned the way the French police and gendarmerie are managed and also casts doubt on the government’s official crime statistics.
The 250-page report focuses on policing in the three most-populated regions of France: the Ile-de-France, RhÃ´ne-Alpes and Paca. It found that, while significant resources were ploughed into crime prevention between 2002 and 2010, the number of violent crimes rose 20%.
It also accuses the police of refusing to register complaints from fraud victims in 2009 to ensure that crime figures for the year stayed on target.
The Cour des Comptes criticised the “costly and complicated” way that police are managed. It claims that, in 2009, almost a third of police time was lost through holidays, days off, illness and other absences.
The auditors have called for a reform of the allocation of police numbers in each area. The RhÃ´ne department has 155 officers while the Yvelines has 31, despite both having a similar population.
Some small towns had one officer for every 200 inhabitants, while a number of towns in the Ile-de-France had less than one per 500, including some of the most difficult suburbs.
Other criticisms in the report include insufficient training for some officers. Auditors said many beat officers were “beginners who stay in the job for very little time”.
The average police officer in the Ile-de-France works for 10 years, compared with a national average of 16 years.
It also recommended better sharing of work between national and municipal police, with more clearly defined roles. The number of municipal police, employed directly by mayors, has soared by 35% in the past eight years to 28,300 nationwide.
Interior minister Claude GuÃ©ant issued a furious response before the report had even been published, accusing the Cour des Comptes of “inaccuracies, analytical errors, omissions”, a lack of objectivity and “questionable” conclusions.
The head of President Sarkozy’s UMP party, Jean-FranÃ§ois CopÃ©, accused the auditor of being politically motivated. He said: “The Cour des Comptes must stay within its role and its role is to evaluate public policy – not to add to the political debate.”
About 70 MPs have written to Cour des Comptes president Didier Migaud to criticise the report’s political tone. Migaud says the report is “correct and objective”.
Manuel Valls, one of the candidates to lead the Socialist party in next year’s presidential elections, said: “It is not [the interior minister's] job to express anger at an independent authority that has underlined the government’s mediocre results. He has a responsibility to explain himself and serve the people, not his party’s political interests.”
Report condemns French policing
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