France to ban chokehold arrests in drive to tackle police violence and racism

Christophe Castaner’s decision follows outrage in France over alleged police brutality and racial discrimination in law enforcement | Isa Harsin/AFP via Getty Images

Move follows outrage over death of black man in police custody that has been likened to George Floyd case.

France will ban police from using chokeholds to carry out arrests and take a harder line on racism in police ranks, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.

Castaner’s decision follows outrage in France over alleged police brutality and racial discrimination in law enforcement. Thousands gathered last week in Paris to protest the 2016 death of a black man in police custody and the handling of the case by the judicial system. The case has been likened to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed American black man, who died of asphyxiation in Minneapolis after a police officer pressed his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes.

“The method of chokehold or strangulation will be abandoned, and will no longer be taught in police schools,” Castaner told journalists on Monday. “Nobody’s life should be at risk during an arrest.”

“The method was dangerous,” Castaner added.

On Tuesday, Castaner told French TV channel BFM TV that 30 investigations had been launched into allegations of police officers using racist slurs in 2019. He said eight cases had been closed with no action taken while the rest had been passed on to judicial authorities.

The police officers involved in those outstanding cases are still working because current rules mean no action can be taken until the judicial process is complete, Castaner said. But the minister said he wanted to change that.

“I now want a systematic suspension,” he said. When there is enough evidence to hand the case to a judge, Castaner said, “I think there has to be an administrative sanction.”

Last week, the Paris prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation for racial slurs and incitement to racial hatred after an online media outlet StreetPress reported that members of an 8,000-strong private Facebook group for police officers exchanged racists messages.

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