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France

Government tries to reassure police officers 'on the brink', ahead of protest

French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve.
French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Police unions in France have called for a demonstration on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Justice, to express their anger after the shooting of one of their colleagues last week. The attack has once again cristallized the strain many officers say they face.

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The last straw came on October 5, when a police officer was shot outside Paris by an offender, who escaped while on temporary release.

Today, the officer is fighting for his life.

The tragic episode has enraged France's security forces, who see it as a clear example of the dysfunctions within the justice system.

The offender had been allowed out of prison, but failed to return that same evening. Instead, he managed to procure a gun and attack the 36-year old police officer.

The government response - which includes providing criminal offenders with escorts - has been heavily criticized by unions, who see it as an added burden to an already heavy work load.

One year ago today, French interiour minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on security forces to remain vigilant in the face of the growing terror threat. That vigilance has seen police officers' stress and fatigue levels go up.

According to recent polls, many complain they are doing too much. 6 out of 10 say they're stressed out and 7 out of 10 complain they're tired.

At less than two months to go before a Paris climate conference, which will host representatives from 195 countries, security needs to be tight.

On Tuesday, Cazeneuve tried to reassure police that the government is at their side and sympathized with the attack on their colleague "which should never have happened," he said.

However, Cazeneuve was careful not to pit the police and justice against each other, calling for the two bodies to remain united.

His calls have however not prevented a planned demonstration from taking place outside the Justice ministry on Tuesday. The protest, which should see up to 5.000 civil servants take to the streets, is the most important of its kind since 2001.

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