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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 17:45 GMT
French police angered by duty dangers
Police secure the gunman on a stretcher
Police say they are in too much danger
By Hugh Schofield in Paris

A man who went on the rampage in the central French city of Tours on Monday - killing four people and wounding seven others - was, it now appears, mentally unstable.

That he was not a terrorist or a ruthless bandit may perhaps come as something of a relief.

But it will probably do little to assuage the growing anger of France's police - three of whom were among the injured.

They are increasingly disturbed by the danger to which they say they are exposed in the line of duty.

Lionel Jospin
Security fears could have a bad effect on Mr Jospin's campaign
Already this year seven officers have been killed in shooting incidents, the most recent an aborted break-in in a Paris suburb two weeks ago.

In the wake of that, thousands of police officers staged demonstrations across the country, to protest against their lack of resources and the growing violence of the criminal fraternity.

"No more posthumous decorations," read one of the banners.

The issue is heavily politicised because of the approaching presidential and parliamentary elections.

Questions of security tend to favour right-wing parties, and the socialist-led government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has been knocked onto the defensive.

Indeed, one of the police unions' main complaints is about a key piece of legislation brought in last year by Elisabeth Guigou, then minister of justice.

You have no idea what it is like to earn 10,000 francs a month to get shot at by jerks

Joaquim Masanet, UNSA police union
The "law on the presumption of innocence" was hailed by many as a sensible move to make France's criminal procedures more accountable.

For example, the rules on "provisional detention" - a much-criticised measure which allowed magistrates to lock suspects up for renewable four month periods - have been tightened up.

But the police - supported by many on the right - say the law has severely hampered their work.

Instead of making things easier for them at a time of increasing insecurity, they say the government is tying their hands.

Their current anger focuses on the killings of two police-officers two weeks ago in the Paris suburb of Plessy-Trevise. A fortnight prior to that four people had been shot dead at a bar in another suburb, Athis-Mons.

The prime suspect for both crimes is a man nicknamed The Chinese - Jean-Claude Bonnal, a known serial criminal who was arrested on 19 October.

Elisabeth Guigou
Few police officers are applauding Ms Guigou's law
What angers the police is that Bonnal had been in custody in connection with a hold-up at the Paris department store Printemps in December 1998.

But in December 2000 - shortly after the Guigou law was voted through parliament - he was released because of the delays bringing him to trial.

"I am so despondent," said Joaquim Masanet, of the UNSA police union.

"You have no idea what it is like to earn 10,000 francs a month (1,000) to get shot at by jerks who should never have been let out of jail in the first place."

The BBC's James Coomerasamy
"Drama at the centre of a peaceful French city"
See also:

13 Aug 01 | Europe
Paris robber is a sacked employee
02 Feb 01 | Europe
Big jump in crime in France
17 Jan 01 | Europe
French multiple killer found dead
27 Sep 01 | Europe
Swiss mourn gun rampage victims
27 Sep 01 | Europe
Gunman kills 14 in Swiss assembly
08 Jun 01 | Europe
Timeline: France
07 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: France
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