Four deaths in less than four months and three different legal orientations.

At the beginning of April, the police officer who had shot and killed a motorist during a check in Sevran (Seine-Saint-Denis) was indicted for “willful violence resulting in death without intention to give it”.

A month later, the agent who killed near the Pont-Neuf, in the heart of Paris, two men suspected of having restarted hastily towards a patrol, was indicted for “intentional homicide”, a criminal qualification which had caused several police unions to jump.

This Tuesday, the three officials who fired on Saturday in the 18th arrondissement of the capital during a check on a car which allegedly drove into them, shooting a passenger and seriously injuring the driver, came out of police custody without legal proceedings at this stage.

“All cases of use of the weapon are subject to the interpretation of the magistrates. There is a theory, which must be contextualized each time”, summarizes Thierry Clair, deputy secretary general of Unsa-police.

– Police-gendarmerie alignment –

This theory appears since a law of February 2017 in article 435-1 of the internal security code (CSI).

This consecrates the alignment of the conditions of opening fire of the police – hitherto subject to the Penal Code and the principles of self-defense like any citizen – with those of the gendarmes.

A reform obtained after a movement of angry police officers following the attack with Molotov cocktails of four of them in Viry-Châtillon in October 2016.

In its paragraph 4, the police are authorized to shoot in the event of refusal to comply if they cannot stop the car other than by the use of weapons and if, in his flight, the driver is “likely to perpetrate (. ..) attacks on their life or physical integrity or those of others”.

The principles of “absolute necessity” and “strict proportionality”, linked to self-defence, remain in force.

“If we push the reasoning, we can find a lot of pretext for shooting”, nevertheless underlines a police officer from the Paris police headquarters.

“We can shoot someone who, at the moment T, no longer represents any danger for anyone. But since he has shown himself to be dangerous in his flight, we can assume that he will be so again. so we engage” (shooting), he develops.

– Rise in shots –

Since 2017, the number of shootings at moving vehicles has increased compared to previous years, according to the latest report from the General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN).

Thus, 202 openings of fire were recorded in 2017 against 137 in 2016. For three years, the use of the weapon has stabilized around 150 annual shots.

The police unions, they highlight the increase in the number of refusals to comply.

At the beginning of 2020, the Ministry of the Interior estimated them at 24,000 per year, police and gendarmes combined.

In 2021, 27,756 were identified (14,256 for the police, 13,500 for the gendarmerie), according to figures obtained by AFP. Either, a fact “every 20 minutes”, hammer the unions.

“These refusals to comply are more and more in reality attempted homicides”, hence the increase in shootings, affirms Grégory Joron, secretary general of the SGP FO Unit.

The PP police officer wonders if “the 2017 law did not somehow convince them that they could shoot a little each time the person restarts”.

According to criminal lawyer Me Vincent Brengarth, the dangerous situation is “subjectively assessed by the police”.

However, he believes, “a poor assessment exposes to collateral victims”, pointing to the “insufficient training and experience of police officers who are sometimes entrusted with assault weapons.”

On the magistrates’ side, some believe that they are only applying the law, and that if it proves to be too permissive in terms of self-defense and leads to abuse, it is up to the legislator to consider adjusting the texts.