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Dated 20th October 2020
Expansion of municipal police forces, already observed by the Cour des Comptes
over the 2000-2010 period, continued between 2010 and 2018. Municipal forces now
have larger staff, are implanted in more diversified locations and are better
equipped. Their missions have expanded to the extent of being similar, in some
cases, to those of national security forces. This momentum, which will likely to be
maintained overthe next few years, calls for assertive measures from the Central
Government for an improved management of local forces and a strengthened
governance at national level,. It should alsoprovide better training for officers and
improve the complementarity between municipal police forces and Central
recommendations for this purpose.
Continuous expansion since the 2000’s
In ten years, the role of municipal police forces in public security measures has been
reinforced. Although moving at a slower pace than between 2000 and 2010, staff numbers
rose by 18 % between 2010 and 2019, but with no necessary correlation with the local
delinquency level. Although still concentrated in the Ile-de-France region and the
Mediterranean arc, municipal police forces have also been created in regions where they
were practically non-existent ten years ago, such as in Normandy, Brittany or Hauts-de-
France. Weapons have also become commonplace over the last ten years: in 2019, 81 %
of municipal police officers carried weapons and 57 % were issued with a firearm.
In terms of missions, all municipal police forces are responsible for general surveillance,
public peace and security. However, an increasing share is now intervening actively to
fight and prevent crime, , sometimes with equipment and measures similar to those of the
national police force. Municipal police forces tend to act as public thoroughfare units,
above and beyond the task share initially set out in the coordination conventions that were
supposed to organise their relations. Furthermore, a drop in the number of interventions
by the national police force has been observed, as well as a substitution effect in towns
and cities with more elaborate municipal police forces.
Practices to be more effectively structured
Video protection has become an ordinary instrument in everyday use for municipal police
forces and urban supervision centres have multiplied over the last few years. The current
debate is about the scope of technological innovations such as drones or face recognition.
These techniques have became widespread during the sanitary crisis and due to a
persistent legal vacuum, which led to unstructured usage of these technical resources
when acquired by municipal polices forces. This situation needs to be addressed by
finding a balance between innovation and the protection of privacy rights.
In the mean time, prerogatives and attributions of municipal police officers have been
extended.They can now have direct access to certain police files and carry out blood
alcohol screening as part of road traffic control operations. These changes, made as the
need arises and often without sufficient foresight, lack overall strategic planning about the
role of municipal police forces.
These shortcomings are partly caused by the weakness of the national bodies for
dialogue and governance, in particular the municipal police force advisory committee.
This committee hastoo few meetings which are, when held, monopolised by statutory
questions. The lack of strategy is however above all caused by the reluctance of Central
Government to define a clear scope of intervention for the municipal police forces and an
assumed complementarity with the national police.
Evaluation and auditing to be reinforced
Investment in security missions is costly for towns and cities, whether in terms of wage
bills, equipment or investments in video protection systems. Yet little is known about this
cost, as there is no account classification aiming at isolating
the “municipal police”
component in local budgets. Control of the wage bills of municipal police officers,
estimated at 1.26 Md€ for all the towns and cities concerned, is still a central issue.
Actual measures for evaluating the performance of municipal police forces still remain to
be created.The external auditing, currently deficient as it is subject to prior approval from
the advisory committee, must be reinforced.
Above all, the development of municipal police forces may eventually increase the
dependence of Central Government security forces on services over which they have no
creative or operational control. This movement underlines by inference the difficulty for
the national security forces to accomplish all the tasks under their responsibility.
Central Government should determine how much importance it wishes to grant local
authorities within the “
security continuum
between the forces contributing to public
security. Only then can municipal police forces become an essential link in public peace
and security.
Read the report
Ted Marx
Director of Communication
+33 (0)1 42 98 55 62
Etienne Chantoin
Press relations
+33 (0)1 42 98 59 45
Cour des Comptes
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