The cell phone footage is shaky, however simple. A slender teenager sits within the harsh fluorescent glare of a police station within the Paris suburbs.
Towering above him is a municipal police officer in a darkish blue uniform, his cumbersome body accentuated by a bulletproof vest.
The officer taunts and intimidates the boy, grabs him by the collar, jerks him violently to 1 aspect of the bench and hits him onerous throughout the pinnacle.
He is barely 14 years previous.
While surprising, it isn’t the worst of the abuse this minor suffered final yr on March 17.
The police officer, recognized as Cédric G, had allegedly urinated on him and certainly one of his two 16-year-old buddies earlier that night time, after detaining the trio for breaching curfew rules in drive through the coronavirus pandemic.
Also current on the scene was native police chief Yohan C, who allegedly advised one of many 16-year-olds: “Since there are trees and you are Black, you could climb onto the trees.”
The case, not too long ago uncovered by French information website Mediapart, is the most recent in a protracted line of police abuses which have come to mild in France in current instances, typically focusing on Black and Arab males, demonstrating what rights teams time period systemic brutality and racism in its safety forces.
Despite being sacked by the municipality of Saint-Ouen final yr in July, each Cédric G and Yohan C subsequently discovered municipal jobs elsewhere within the Paris area.
And, whereas Cédric G – nonetheless working as a police officer – faces prosecution at Bobigny courtroom on December 15, his former boss seems to be off the hook.
“Police officers know they are protected,” stated Omer Mas Capitolin, a founding father of the Community House for Supportive Development, certainly one of six NGOs that final yr raised a category motion towards the French authorities for systemic discrimination by cops finishing up identification checks.
“These sorts of cases are widespread. Often people don’t speak out because it’s too humiliating,” he advised Al Jazeera. “But those boys were lucky.”
As it turned out, the brother of one of many victims, an anti-crime agent with the nationwide police drive, instantly complained to the municipal authorities. But it was nonetheless their phrase towards that of the sworn cops.
Long litany of denials
Faced with a protracted litany of denials that any violence had occurred, supported by a bland police report on the supposedly routine ID checks carried out on the night time, the case might need collapsed had the essential video proof not come to mild.
But though the falsehoods and cover-ups have since been uncovered, justice is way from being achieved.
According to Mediapart, investigators have been denied safety digital camera footage from the situation the place the boys have been detained and reportedly handcuffed and crushed, with the management centre claiming the footage had already been erased.
The cell phone footage from the station, taken by an officer recognized as David L, subsequently got here to mild.
Faced with irrefutable proof of his abusive behaviour, Cédric G dismissed his actions as a few “slaps”, claiming that the 14-year-old had insulted him.
According to testimony by three cops, Yohan C appeared to specific “pride” when proven the video proof.
The municipality acted on the proof, and each officers have been sacked in brief order. But regardless of their repeated acts of dangerous religion, it didn’t see match to take claims that Cédric G had urinated on the boys any additional.
The officer had claimed to be affected by a prostate drawback, having merely “pinched his sex” to alleviate the necessity to urinate, a declare backed up by Yohan C and the 5 different officers current on the scene, whose testimonies had in any other case confirmed unreliable, to say the least.
Despite his supposed situation, Cédric G didn’t give you medical certificates to again his testimony.
Tests on gadgets of clothes supplied by one of many victims as proof had come up destructive, a spokesperson for the municipality advised Al Jazeera.
“Factually, the urination wasn’t proven by the inquiry. It’s difficult if there’s no proof. That’s why we recognised an intention to humiliate in the inquiry, but … no urine.”
The city’s Socialist Party mayor Karim Bouamrane, elected in 2020, is attempting to create an “ethical police force, focused on prevention, rather than repression”, he stated. “It’s a project that is close to his heart.”
The municipality is supporting the victims on the upcoming listening to and reportedly overlaying their authorized charges.
But, following the municipality’s lead, prosecutors at Bobigny courtroom have additionally shied away from investigating claims that Cédric G urinated on victims.
While the officer is being tried for “indecent exposure” and “deliberate violence by a person in a position of public authority”, he shall be spared any additional scrutiny on probably the most critical cost of all.
Kathleen Taieb, the lawyer representing the 14-year-old, has accused the courtroom of habitually failing to point out solidarity with victims of police violence.
“The word of the police officer is always stronger than the victim,” says Mas Capitolin. “The French government does everything to deny the systemic nature of the problem. Black and Arab youth are targeted on a daily basis. They are not considered fully fledged French citizens. There is a political will to stigmatise an entire segment of the population.”
Abdoulaye Kanté, writer of Policier, enfant de la République, a e-book detailing his lengthy profession as a Black police officer, dealing with down discrimination from colleagues and accusations of betrayal from his neighborhood, stated the authorities are nonetheless “catching up” in relation to tackling racism.
“It is completely unacceptable,” he advised Al Jazeera. “The day you put on your uniform, you are in the service of citizens. It is our job to serve citizens. If there are colleagues who abuse, they must be denounced. If they are not denounced, we become complicit.”
“We have to be relentless on racist behaviour,” he stated. “Tough measures need to be taken.”