Security Beauvau: How are the UK and German police organised?

Police officers surround a parked vehicle across the road as climate activists from the Extinction Rebellion group block the road at London Bridge in central London on 31 August 2021 (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

The Security Beauvau, an initiative launched by the government to improve the conditions for exercising the profession of police officer, ended on Tuesday, September 14, with a speech by the Head of State in Roubaix (North). The opportunity for Emmanuel Macron to announce major reforms for the police and gendarmes, from the simplification of procedures to the implementation of pedestrian cameras through the transparency of the IGPN.

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What is the situation abroad? We take you to the UK and Germany.

In the UK, a police force well received by the population

In the UK, the police have a very good image. It’s even an obligation for her, that’s how she was thought, theorized. When the London Police Force was created in the early 19th century, its founders coined the concept of “policing by consent”. The principle: cooperating with the population, being well perceived by the population will be more effective than the great manifestations of force. This principle then irrigates the maintenance of order throughout the kingdom. Also, in London, the police we meet daily are not armed. And just go to a demonstration to see if the uniforms adopt a very relaxed posture. We see them regularly arguing and joking with protesters.

Obviously, if the situation becomes tense, their behavior changes and they go into repression. But no flashballs or water cannons: the police are always concerned about the image they convey. When crowd control becomes aggressive, it immediately provokes strong reactions in society. We saw this last winter at a rally in honor of a murdered young woman, a meeting banned because of anti-Covid restrictions. The police eventually intervened and the image of a woman face down, handcuffed on her back, traveled across the UK and generated a great deal of debate. Ultimately, this intervention was considered legal and under control.

There are also possibilities to appeal against the police. Every police officer here wears a number on their uniform, clearly visible, at their shoulders. These few numbers make it possible to identify you in the event of a claim. Cameras equip half of the patrol officers. The images can then be used as evidence, against the person arrested, but also against the person who arrested him if he misbehaved.

There is also an equivalent of the IGPN, the Police des Fonts, the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), and theindependent office for police conduct. It is written in the law that the director general of this service, as well as all members of the board, must never have held positions in the police, a big difference with our IGPN. This body can be approached directly by anyone and automatically investigates when a person is seriously injured or killed after contacting the police. She also examines police custody, gunshots or even traffic accidents involving one of her vehicles. The reports, once completed, are handed over to the police, but also to the complainants. It can also be found on the IOPC website. Any citizen can consult it.

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In Germany, a decentralized police force close to citizens

The German police are one of Europe’s police forces often cited in opposition to strong French-style practices and techniques. The relationship between the police and citizens is above all more serene and healthier, less damaged, even though the country has experienced cases of racism or the presence of proven elements of the extreme right in its ranks.

But police culture is intended to be a culture of service, a police force in contact, close to the citizens. Also close because it is a decentralized police force in each state on behalf of the federal agency. Forces are therefore available in a number proportional to the population of each region, such as for health and hospitals, and therefore adapted to specific local problems. And then, sometimes, when there are important maneuvers, police forces can lend a hand. Finally, the Federal Police often carry out law enforcement operations together with the Ground Police, which requires more staff.

It is a profession a little less attractive to young Germans in recent years, as this job is now associated with fear and danger due to the increased risk of terrorism in recent years. You are more likely to draw your weapon today than ten years ago. And since we’re talking about guns, here’s a difference with France: In Germany, the police don’t use flashballs or siege grenades. All police techniques favor non-violent interventions. The use of force is marginalized, it is used as a last resort. It is a doctrine that has existed in Germany since 1985.

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