PARIS (AP) — The Paris police chief ordered an investigation Thursday after a new book published accounts of alleged violence and racism at a police station by a man who says he “infiltrated” the police force by becoming an officer.
Valentin Gendrot paints a chilling portrait of what he said is daily life in a police station and on patrol in a rough, ethnically-mixed neighborhood in eastern Paris in his book, “Cop: A Journalist Infiltrates Police.”
Police Chief Didier Lallement ordered the body that investigates complaints of police misconduct to open an investigation into the allegations in the book and also referred the matter to the Paris prosecutors office. A statement by police headquarters noted that “at this stage” neither the identities of the police officers described with pseudonyms in the book nor the veracity of the accounts are known.
Gendrot, 32, explained in the book, according to an excerpt published in Le Monde, that he spent six months at the police station. He said in interviews that he joined the police force as a low-level foot soldier in order to get behind the scenes to probe the reality of police life in France.
He ended up spending two years in the service with three months’ training and 15 months as a guard in a psychiatric section of police headquarters before getting his hoped-for job in a station in working-class Paris.
Police violence, the deplorable conditions of some police stations and suicides among police have all for years been recounted in the French press. Gendrot confirms all three aspects of life in the district where he worked, and underscored the racism he found among some colleagues toward Blacks, people of North African origin and migrants.
He said he witnessed his first beating after two weeks at the station, administered by a colleague on a young migrant picked up for no clear reason.
“In theory, cops are supposed to fight violence, racism and sexism in society. In practice, they are often the outpost” instead, he wrote.
He told French media that officers at his station did not speak up to superiors about violence and racism among colleagues, saying that they instead respected a code of silence to avoid bullying or intimidation.
The police statement said the investigation will also determine why the prosecutors office was not immediately made aware of the alleged acts cited in the book, an apparent reference to an unofficial code of silence among French police forces.
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