The National Observatory of Crime and Criminal Justice Reponses (ONDRP) reported the figures and a spokesman said: “This is the highest annual increase on record since 2009.” Other figures revealed 52 French police officers had also taken their own lives in 2019. The report comes amid simmering tensions within the ranks of police, who have been stretched to the limit over the “yellow vest” rallies against President Emmanuel Macron’s government many of which were marred by violent clashes between protesters and police. Rioters often targeted officers but police themselves were accused of using heavy-handed tactics, including rubber bullets and stun grenades.
Dozens of protesters have also been seriously injured.
French police have repeatedly warned that they are under-equipped to deal with rising crime and complained about soft sentences against offenders.
Last month, thousands of officers staged a “march of anger” in Paris against poor working conditions and morale they say have led to dozens of suicides since the beginning of the year.
Some 52 police officers have taken their own lives since January.
They also deplored what they described as rising anti-police sentiment in the wake of the yellow vest protest movement.
“There is a deep sense of despair,” the secretary-general of the SCPN-Unsa police union, David Le Bars, told reporters on the sidelines of the October march. “All of the unions know that the police are sick with worry.”
Another major bone of contention among police is the government’s plan to overhaul France’s pension system, which could see officers lose perks that enable them to gain a year in pension points for every five worked.
Frederic Lagache, a member of the SCPN-Unsa union, said: “It’s unacceptable that we should have to work until the age of 65 and run after thieves until we’re 65. All we want is respect, consideration, and that beyond words, we see concrete actions,”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, for his part, said in a recent interview with France 2 television that that the new retirement system will “take into consideration the dangerousness of their profession”.
M Castaner also pointed out that the police budget was being increased by “a billion euros” (£861,000) during M Macron’s five-year term.
The centrist government has also pledged to recruit an extra 10,000 police officers.
Several professions, including public transport workers, doctors, lawyers and airline pilots, have already voiced their discontent over M Macron’s planned pension reform, arguing that the new system will force people to work longer and reduce pension benefits.