French police to get body cams amid nationwide protests

© Stephane Mahe
All police operations will soon be recorded in France, as the Interior Ministry wants all officers to wear body cameras. It comes as French authorities deal with massive Occupy-like protests across the nation amid heightened security sparked by terror attacks.

The idea behind the new order is to film all police activity, particularly interactions with the public, the country’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said.

The minister said that cameras will act as “protectors” – always on, always recording. The goal is to improve the distrustful dynamic between the police and the public.

“This would be a guarantee for citizens as well as for the police,” Cazeneuve said on Friday, when attending the opening ceremony for a new police station in Mureaux, located near Paris. The minister was given a mini body camera as a present from the new station.

Police officers will wear the new equipment either on a belt or around the neck.

French police have already been using this type of tactic sporadically across the country, with around 1,900 cameras employed in high crime areas as an experiment back in 2012.

Recently the national police force came under fire for allegedly being too violent with activists and protesters.

One of the most recent incidents involved a video of a police officer punching a demonstrator. The altercation was caught on a cell phone camera and quickly led to massive outrage after being posted online.

Making police-public relations more complicated during the last month are massive Occupy-style protests that have been gaining popularity across the country.

People in various cities have been rallying against capitalism and the government in a movement dubbed Nuit Debout (“Rise Up at Night”).

The protests were initially peaceful, but some escalated to violent scuffles with police, with tear gas being used and damage to public property reported.

The demonstrations started out as opposition to the labor law reforms recently proposed by Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri. However, soon the movement grew into more widespread discontent against the government’s policies.

On Tuesday, police detained 130 people in Paris during violent demonstrations. In Rennes, police chased protesters from railways and used tear gas, as demonstrators threw projectiles at security forces and blocked traffic.

The movement has been spreading like wildfire around Europe and may soon turn into a global phenomenon, with more demonstrations planned in Valencia, Spain, and Belgium’s capital, Brussels.