The French police carried out identity checks on a “massive” scale in 2021, without having a doctrine to define their objectives or good practices during these checks, the Court of Auditors said on Wednesday. , in a report.
Published on: 06/12/2023 – 4:14 p.m.Amended: 06/12/2023 – 16:36
The report details for the first time the number of identity checks carried out annually by the police – 47 million in 2021 – a number that the president of the Court of Auditors Pierre Moscovici described as “massive”. This number has been stable since 2018, the report states.
The Court of Auditors is France’s highest administrative audit institution and this report was produced at the request of the French human rights monitoring body, the Defender of Rights.
Despite its widespread use and central place in policing, “there is no doctrine on identity checks, (to define) why we do it,” Moscovici said, adding that “the absence of reflection is surprising” given the public debate around its use and possible abuse.
Claire Hedon, director of Defender of Rights, told Reuters it was an important report, which should prompt the government to change its public policy and improve the traceability of identity checks.
“An identity check is an interruption of a person’s freedom, and so there has to be a good reason for it – and I don’t know if we can justify 47 million identity checks,” he said. -she declared, adding that previous estimates were around 10 million. per year.
The government and police came under international scrutiny when a teenager of North African descent was shot dead during a traffic stop in June, fueling debate over police brutality and discrimination. respect for French urban communities of immigrant origin.
Learn moreThe murder of a teenager raises a French police problem that does not dare to be named
At the time, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination denounced a “continued practice of racial profiling” and urged France to address the “structural and systemic causes of racial discrimination” within of the police.
The Court of Auditors said it was unable to assess whether there is a practice of racial profiling, given that the collection of data linked to ethnicity is largely prohibited in France.
However, he suggests that police oversight bodies should be “proactive and creative” in considering ways to measure possible profiling, noting that the country’s highest administrative court has concluded that it is “pervasive.”
Their count of 47 million identity checks is based on the number of times an officer consults two databases, that of wanted persons and that of the driving license register. The accounts office notes, however, that this is incomplete due to partial recordings and recommends putting in place “exhaustive” documentation.
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Auditors found that police training pays little attention to how to assess whether an identity check is necessary and how it should be carried out. Only 300 agents take courses on identity checks each year as part of continuing education.
They said officers also often search individuals for drugs during identity checks, even though French law states that such searches are only used for security reasons or to check for the presence of a drug. armed.
The audit office said it did not seek to assess the results or benefits of the 47 million identity checks carried out in 2021.
A concrete result that they observed is that 0.3% of identity checks during which the list of wanted persons was consulted by the gendarmerie made it possible to identify a wanted person. The national police do not keep a similar count.