French police in 'anger march' over conditions, high suicide rates

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By Rachael Kennedy  with AFP
French police in 'anger march' over conditions, high suicide rates

Thousands of police officers are taking part in an "anger march" across Paris to demand better working conditions and a response to high suicide rates among those in the force.

It is the first time in almost two decades that officers in the French police have gone on strike, and it comes amid a slump in morale following the weekly coordination of "gilets jaunes" protests, which have, at times, been plagued with violence.

"We are the dregs of society," Frederic Govin, an officer from a riot police unit in northern France, told AFP.

Meanwhile, another officer Cyril Benoit said the regular protests had pushed an already stretched police force to its limit, resulting in "physical and psychological fatigue".

He added: "There's always been a bit of pressure on the police but never like this."

Aside from the pressure from the far-reaching yellow vest movement, officers have been to found to work many long hours in recent years due to responses to terror attacks, and the migrant crisis.

This year alone has seen 49 officers take their own lives, which is rise from 35 suicides last year.

In a tweet, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said he could "hear and understand" the difficulties of his country's officers.

He said the government had continued to respond and pledge an increase to the National Police budget and further recruits by 2020.

"Conditions of practice, hours, pensions: since my arrival at the interior ministry, I have engaged in a constant and constructive dialogue with the representative organisations.

"This is how we concretely improve the daily lives of our law enforcement agencies," he added.

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