France’s top security official announced Monday that “it will be now forbidden” for the country’s police officers to “push on the back of the neck or the neck" during arrests.
The change comes as France’s government is under increasing pressure to address accusations of brutality and racism within its police force following the death of George Floyd in the U.S., and a recent incident in which a black man was seen writhing on a street in Paris after an officer pressed his knee to the back of his neck.
French lawmakers have called for such practices to be banned, and they have raised criticism in other countries, too.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Monday “the method of seizing the neck via strangling will be abandoned and will no longer be taught in police schools.”
The arrest on May 28 in Paris of a black man who was momentarily immobilized face-up with an officer’s knee and upper shin pressing down on his jaw, neck, and upper chest is among those that have drawn angry comparisons with the police-involved death of Floyd in Minneapolis.
The Paris arrest was filmed by bystanders and widely shared and viewed online. Police said the man was driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and without a license and that he resisted arrest and insulted officers. His case was turned over to prosecutors.
President Emmanuel Macron has stayed unusually silent so far both about Floyd’s death and what’s happening in France. Macron’s office said he spoke to the prime minister and other top officials over the weekend, and asked Castaner to “accelerate” plans to improve police ethics that were initially promised in January.
Last week, the Paris prosecutor's office opened a preliminary investigation into racist insults and instigating racial hatred based on comments allegedly published by police in a private Facebook group.
Separately, six police officers in the Normandy city of Rouen are under internal investigation over racist comments in a private WhatsApp group. Both incidents have prompted public concerns about extreme views among French police, The Associated Press reported.
Castaner acknowledged that there are racist police officers and promised “zero tolerance” for racism within the force going forward.
At least 23,000 people protested in cities around France on Saturday against racial injustice and police brutality, even defying a police ban on such protests in Paris due to fears about spreading coronavirus.
Activists marched Monday in the western city of Nantes, and more demonstrations are planned in France on Tuesday, when Floyd is being buried.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.