Pasqua plans security shake-up: Police called upon to respect the law

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The Independent Online
CHARLES PASQUA, France's Interior Minister, said yesterday he would introduce measures next month to cut down drug traffic and illegal immigration, to improve public security. His statement brought the first expression of dissent from Francois Mitterrand since France's left-right cohabitation began two weeks ago.

Speaking at the third cabinet meeting of the new conservative government, Mr Pasqua described the killings of three young men at police hands since the beginning of the month as 'unfortunate events' which underlined the need for change. He reminded police of their obligation to observe 'absolute respect of law and individual liberties'. Last week Mr Pasqua expressed the government's regret to the families of the dead, two of whom were of immigrant stock.

Sources at the Elysee Palace said the Socialist President expressed 'reservations' at Mr Pasqua's statement but did not say what these were.

As Mr Pasqua spoke, police in Cherbourg said a 15-year-old boy was wounded yesterday when a police motorcyclist fired on a car in which he was travelling. The boy's life did not appear to be in danger, but the incident was an embarrassment to police whose behaviour is under scrutiny.

The worst of the earlier shootings occurred in Paris last week, when a 17-year-old African was shot dead in custody in a police station. The policeman, who said he was trying to intimidate the boy with his service pistol when he accidentally fired a shot, has been charged with murder. That killing and another near Lille sparked violent demonstrations.

An opinion poll on the French police in the left-wing weekly Globe Hebdo said that 20 per cent of its sample said they were frightened of the police. Another poll, in the Catholic Pelerin magazine, indicated that two-thirds trusted the police but 77 per cent thought they were hampered by administrative tasks. In the Globe poll, 50 per cent said police thought they were above the law, while 47 per cent thought they were tougher on foreigners than on the French.

The daily Liberation published a disturbing report of the detention of a North African immigrant during violence in Montmartre after the killing of the 17-year-old. Salim Hadjedj, 18, was waiting for a bus when he heard protesters and went to watch. He said he was grabbed and beaten by two men who called him 'a dirty Jew'. In a police station he was told to shout 'Long live Hitler', he said. When he told policemen he was Arab, he said they switched to other insults.