French police officers called for an urgent meeting with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner after two of their colleagues killed themselves this week, taking the number of suicides in police ranks to 28 since the start of the year. According to the Interior Ministry’s numbers, 68 officers took their own lives in 2018.
Police unions called for silent protests Friday at local stations in a tribute to the officers. According to Le Monde, a 48-year-old police captain took his own life with his gun on Thursday inside a police station in the southern city of Montpellier, and a 25-year-old policeman was found dead at his home in a Paris suburb. Unions said a plan set up last year to prevent suicide should “become a national cause and declared a ministerial priority.”
France’s national police have long complained about being overworked, underappreciated and underpaid, and have tried to press their cause in the past to no avail. In addition to months of “yellow vest” protests, the police were called upon for extra shifts and duties following a deadly attack in December near the Strasbourg Christmas market, which led to increased surveillance around France.
During the yellow vest protests, a group of French police, calling themselves “les Gyros Blues,” or the “blue lights,” had launched a call for demonstrations against French President Emmanuel Macron’s government. Last December, the French government proposed giving 300 euro ($340) bonuses to officers deployed to the protests by the yellow vest movement that started in mid-November. President Macron committed to the idea of protest duty pay. However, police representatives wanted compensation for years of overtime duty never paid out.