In Villejuif, the police find the meaning of their job


When asked to open his office to the public for the Villejuif municipal police open house operation, Frédéric twisted his nose. « Me, the com, it’s not really my thing », says the deputy chief of the brigade of this city of Val-de-Marne. On this Saturday morning, while his colleagues offer the kids to get into police cars and even activate the siren, it is nevertheless with enthusiasm that the former soldier in charge of prevention leads the small troop of about ten of children, accompanied by their parents, towards the room on the first floor, a little apart, where he receives the victims of violence. In the courtyard adjoining the town hall, a table covered with pastries and fruit juice welcomes visitors, invited to discover their rights and duties on large interactive panels. But Frédéric also has arguments: “Come, I’m going to show you the drawings made by the children who have been here. Behind each of them, there is a story, more or less serious…”

It does not take more to pique the curiosity of young and old. And the 49-year-old agent takes the opportunity to send messages: “Children, you can come to me anytime if an adult hurts you or if a grown-up threatens you at school. To denounce an injustice is not to be a libra. Those who have hurt you will not necessarily go to prison. Sometimes some adults just need some nurturing. Here we will know what to do. » The little ones are attentive, their parents too. And to insist on the latter: “If you spot any women or children in danger, let us know, even if you’re not sure. It is better to warn us for nothing than to let someone be massacred… Just yesterday, we received a woman who had been subjected to violence for years. We listened to her and found her emergency accommodation. We are not empowered to take complaints, but s we have drawn up a document which, when the time comes, will be useful to our colleagues in the national police. Look at the thank you text she just sent me…” he says before handing out his business card to the adults.

« I don’t like the idea that the police are scary »

Bénédicte, a young blond woman with pink locks and tattooed arms lives in a so-called “sensitive” district of Villejuif. If she decided to take Camille, her 6-year-old daughter, to visit the premises of the municipal police this Saturday morning, it is because, » in (their) cited, any contact with the police is frowned upon. I wanted the little one to have another image of the uniform and not hesitate to approach the agents”. “I don’t like the idea of ​​the police being scary. Moreover, I do not tolerate any inappropriate or violent behavior on the part of the members of my team, not even an inappropriate familiarity. We are here to protect people. », supports the deputy manager. Instilling the “peacekeeper” spirit into the officers responsible for security is the challenge for the new municipal team. For Sylvie Mantion, assistant (PS) in charge of public tranquility and prevention, “it is very important that the youngest understand that the police do not only intervene in a logic of repression. In Villejuif, we are banking on the construction of a public security service based on proximity and in connection with residents, traders, landlords, schools and colleges. It’s a way to retain agents, with a solid project and missions that have sense « .

Among the faithful, there is Patrick, a tall, smiling bearded man of West Indian origin. Today the main brigadier in charge of the living environment, he has been in post in Villejuif since 1983. Everyone knows and appreciates him. So much so that it was his photo that was chosen for the poster for the open house. “When I started, I took the little ones across when they left school. So when, growing up, they make small or big mistakes, I know how to talk to them. And they respect me, he assures. The relationship with young people is also Philibert’s credo. Educator by training, the forties has just joined the brigade as a public highway surveillance officer (ASVP). In reality, the entire team of municipal police officers is in the process of being rebuilt.

“Currently we are 11 agents, and 3 others will join us in September. The objective is for the 34 positions to be filled by the end of the year in order to be able to ensure a presence in island service from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. For the moment, our staff does not allow it, so it is the mediators who take over from 10 p.m. “, Details the leader, Michael Dehay, ex-mobile policeman, also freshly arrived. But the manager does not hide the recruitment difficulties: “There is a shortage in all the cities of the Ile-de-France region. And as Paris is in the process of creating its municipal police, many young people who have just passed the competition are recruited in the capital. In addition, in Villejuif, we are very demanding on the profiles sought, particularly with regard to ethics. »

As soon as he was elected two years ago, the mayor (PCF), Pierre Garzon, took security issues head on. Based on an audit of the existing municipal police, which revealed “a lot of unfavorable feedback”, “a disproportionate use of force, in particular via the LBDs and the Taser” and also the low efficiency of “90 surveillance cameras from the municipality, which have not made it possible to reduce delinquency or solve cases”, the new aedile decided on a radical change of doctrine. “We have chosen to put more human resources in the field, antennas in the districts, permanence, etc. This is carried out with a constant budget, thanks to the redeployment of the 9 agents who ensured a presence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in front of the video surveillance screens. Today, the cameras remain functional, but the images are only viewed in the event of a report. of an offence, and we have facilitated the procedure for making them available in real time to the national police, which was not the case before. »

Mediators intervene in cases of incivility

Another major change: police officers on patrol no longer have a dog, Taser or LBD. “The use of these so-called non-lethal weapons is poorly regulated and they are too often used as assault weapons, even though, as everyone knows, they cause great damage. This is why, in consultation with the agents, we took them away, but left them their pistol, which is strictly defensive. In addition to the savings it generates, it prints an attitude e of the police who go more towards de-escalation. » The municipal police are now part of a larger system intended to ensure the serenity of Villejuifois. The mediators intervene in the event of incivility, somewhat noisy games at the foot of a tower or an intrusive picnic in a park… “As many micro-events that do not need to be dramatized by involving the police. It’s about putting the right people back, at the right time, in the right places. » says Pierre Garzon.

« Young people feel less stigmatized »

A bet that seems to be won. The agents who did not share this doctrine left, those who arrive are in a logic of dialogue. “Young people feel less stigmatized because the police no longer see them as adversaries. Traders feel more listened to because, when they report a difficulty, we systematically make an appointment with them and we go to the field”, says the mayor. Of course, the whole population does not yet adhere to this change of course. “But it is to reassure them about the use of public money that we organized this open day,”explains Pierre Garzon. Indeed, for Jacqueline, Villejuifoise for sixty years, nothing is going well in her city: “People throw rubbish everywhere, young people make noise until late in the evening… it’s unbearable! »she gets annoyed. Arrived first, the old lady will spend the whole morning on the spot to share her recriminations with the agents, whom she calls all by their first name. » We know it well, we’re used to it, that’s also the proximity « one of them whispers with a wink.

If this « transparency operation » was able to reassure the inhabitants about the usefulness and accessibility of the municipal police, the mayor nevertheless insists on the fact that“its missions are distinct and complementary to those of the national police. It is in no way a question of compensating for the disengagement of the State« . However, the Kremlin-Bicêtre police station, on which the city of Villejuif depends, has seen its workforce halved in ten years… A good reason for Pierre Garzon to continue to demand the creation of a full-fledged police station in his city of 60,000 inhabitants, where traffic will be intensified by the upcoming arrival of two new metro lines and the tramway.


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