How the French learned to love their police


A record number of people have applied to join the French police force over the past year. Many new recruits say the recent attacks in Paris inspired them to sign up. It also seems that the shootings have made the country rethink its attitude towards the police.

A young recruit pushes away a woman charging at her with a club. The recruit draws her revolver. “Police! Don’t move!” she yells.

Audrey is taking part in a self-defence class at the police training school in Sens, eastern France, having signed up after gunmen attacked the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket at the start of 2015.

“Since the [Paris] terror attacks in January and November last year, the danger confronting us is clear,” she says. “Any one of us can be a victim. Every one of us needs protection. And we all want to help somehow. That’s why I’m here. To help make this country safer.”

In March this year, a record 35,000 people sat the exam to join the police – 50% more than last year.

Only 8% of those who took the test passed – the same success level as for the entrance exam for the elite Science-Po political science school in Paris.

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Recruits taking part in firearms training

“I was really shocked by the video from the Charlie Hebdo killings of the policeman who was on the ground, asking for mercy, who they shot in cold blood,” says another recruit, Perez, when I ask him why he joined the police.

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