A week after the police’s use of the chokehold manoeuvre to restrain suspects was banned in France, the government has reversed the order following a five-day protest by the police, BBC reported. In a letter addressed to the police force, France’s National Police Director clarified that while chokeholds will no longer be taught during police training, they can be used if necessary until a viable alternative is found.
After the custodial killing of George Floyd in the US sparked protests against racism and police brutality in France, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on June 8 announced that the police would no longer be taught to seize suspects by applying force to their neck. Stating that there will be a “zero tolerance” policy for racism in law enforcement, Castaner said that police officials accused of discriminatory behaviour would be suspended, The Guardian reported.
Outraged by Castaner’s announcement, French police rallied on Paris’ Champs-Élysées for five days — some even throwing their handcuffs to the ground — to protest against the government’s decision. The French police maintained that chokeholds were vital for carrying out arrests. The technique was particularly useful if suspects got aggressive and tried to attack law enforcement authorities, police officials claimed.
Following growing unrest among police officers, the National Police Chief, Frédéric Veaux, wrote to the staff announcing that the ban was being revoked and possible “substitution techniques” were being examined. “While awaiting a clarification of the new framework and details of when circumstances require it, the technique known as the chokehold will continue to be used with restraint and discernment,” his letter, obtained by AFP, read.
Last week, France announced that it was testing stun guns for wider use by law enforcement authorities, AP reported. The use of stun guns is rapidly expanding in the country. According to a police watchdog, the device killed one and severely injured three people last year.
Earlier this month, police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of anti-racism protestors gathered on the streets of Paris, Al Jazeera reported. Following Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, there was an outpouring of anger in France, with demonstrators calling for an end to police brutality. Protestors demanded justice for 24-year-old Assa Traore, who died in 2016 while in police custody