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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le respect doit exister des deux côtés

by Sophie Bouniot

"Respect is Needed on Both sides"

Translated Monday 23 October 2006, by B. G.

Yazid Kerfi, Urban Conflict Prevention Consultant, (1), analyses relations between youth and the police.

Yazid Kerfi, Urban Conflict Prevention Consultant, (1), analyses relations between youth and the police.

HUMA: Is there an increase in violence in relations between city youth and the police?

Yazid Kerfi: The more we talk about it, the more likely we risk creating events like those we have witnessed recently. That said, youth-police relations have long been of concern. We always hear about them at times of violence such as riots, but never in other contexts. What’s more, police effectiveness is never called into question. Everybody realises that the police are badly trained, poorly supervised, inexperienced; they admit it themselves, but such things are never discussed at the Interior Ministry. In general, police are sourced from the provinces. For 90% of them their worst nightmare is to be allocated to the Paris region. However that’s where 90% of them begin their career. Police training should be reviewed as a priority. How many times have I heard them say “At police school no-one ever told us how it was in these communities…” They are taught law, and professional ethics, but not psychology or human relations. All that needs to be reviewed. The ones with the worst grades are sent to the toughest areas. The better ones choose other destinations. The methods they use to select those they send to Seine-St-Denis should be reviewed. There is another important aspect: the police do not always respect codes of professional ethics. Police violence does exist. Now violence is always a reaction to violence. Respect is needed on both sides. It’s not by chance that so many young people are violent towards the police. The police don’t call themselves into question. If there are complaints against some of their methods, that doesn’t mean you’re anti-police, but that you’re standing up for the law. When they make a mistake, the unions shouldn’t leap to the battlements out of pure corporatist defensiveness.

HUMA: What recently happened at Epinay-sur-Seine, with three police officers falling into an ambush, is a more alarming sign of the extent of the problem…

Yazid Kerfi: You have to go and see the people of Epinay and try to understand what happened. It’s not a question of justifying it, but of finding out why those young people acted that way. I imagine several responses, none of them new: the feeling of injustice borne by young people; the feeling that they are not heard; that indeed, they are considered guilty in advance. I am not justifying their actions in any way, what they did was reprehensible, but we have to go a step further than just condemnation. Yet when we hear Nicolas Sarkozy saying “The role of the police isn’t to understand, it’s to arrest delinquents”- that is not going to advance matters in any way. Plenty of towns have signed local security contracts (2) but they don’t take into account the bad relations between youth and police. Nobody is working to improve these relations.

HUMA: Could a return to community policing be a solution? (3)

Yazid Kerfi: Yes, providing community police are well trained. Community policing makes it possible to get to know the public and the surroundings. Communities are visited and community police could anticipate and sound the alarm in times of tension. The police must be part of local life. Relations with the public must be normalised. Of course if crimes are committed they will take action, but they shouldn’t take part in major operations. People must be able to tell the difference between community police and those who intervene. Police officers don’t know how to have normal relationships with young people. The more they meet with each other, the further things will progress. The police are not there to be against young people, but for the security of everyone. The laws are designed to help us all to “live together”.

Interview by Sophie Bouniot

Original article appeared 16th October 2006

(1) See website yazidkherfi.com

(2) CLS, Anti-delinquency measures. See http://www.cls.interieur.gouv.fr/

(3) La police de proximité: Community based policing in an attempt to build bridges with the public. See http://www.prefecture-police-paris.interieur.gouv.fr/connaitre/reforme/reportage.htm

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