French police forces are protesting against "difficult" working conditions on Friday as 28 officers have committed suicide so far in 2019, double the amount recorded at the same time last year.
The protest was called by unions after two officers were found to have taken their own lives on Thursday. They denounce a lack of resources, unpaid overtime, inefficient management and social isolation among other things.
'An explosive cocktail'
"The working conditions are difficult, the management is too hard. When we are not already feeling well in the private sphere and it is not going well in the professional sphere, it is complicated," Frederic Lagache, deputy general secretary at Syndicat Alliance — France's biggest police union — told Euronews.
He also denounced "an anti-cop hatred in France", adding: "the current system is an explosive cocktail."
Lagache said unpaid overtime increased in the past four months because of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) movement. The protest kicked off in mid-November as a rally against planned fuel tax hikes but morphed over the weeks into a larger societal crisis.
Weekly protests held every Saturday have grabbed headlines around the world for their violence. Protesters threw rocks ripped from the road at police and destroyed shops, banks and cars. Police deployed tear gas, water cannons and the controversial LBD40 riot control gun.
28 vs 14
So far this year, 28 French police officers have committed suicide, compared to 14 for the same period last year — overall, 35 took their own lives in 2018.
Over the past five years, an average of 44 members of the police forces committed suicide every year in France. A peak of 55 was registered in 2014.
In contrast, 22 Italian police officers committed suicide last year, same as in 2017 and down from 32 in 2016, according to police support group Cerchioblu.
In Spain, a national prevention plan was launched late last year after figures revealed that 53 officers took their own lives between 2013 and 2017, double the national average.
'The police are suffering'
France also launched prevention plans in 2015 and 2018. The first one planned for more psychological support and for individual lockers for officers to leave their guns in. The second one centred around better cooperation between the different support systems in place.
Unions are scheduled to meet with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on April 29 to once again discuss the topic.
"He outlines his big lines, including an improvement in management, so that it is more participatory. This is one of his priorities," Lagache told Euronews. "This is the first time a minister recognises that management is too tough."
"We tell him that we must anticipate suicides and not act afterwards. This requires a Marshall Plan, an emergency plan. The police are suffering from lack of means," he went on.
Lagache warned that if solutions are not found at the ministerial level, "we will go to seek them higher, to the President of the Republic."