“Serve the police, against all odds”

“Serve the police, against all odds”

Malian, Abdoulaye Kanté is also French and proud to work in the national police. Sometimes a victim of racism in his ranks, he expresses, on the occasion of the World Day against this scourge, this March 21, his confidence in the evolution of minds.

Why did you want to become a police officer?

I have always wanted to serve my country, France. More precisely one of my two countries since I also have Malian nationality. This was already the case when I joined the French Navy at the age of 17. However, it was not easy, I suffered bullying, racist remarks, sometimes insidious. Humanly, I learned a lot there, it toughened me. Three years later, I joined the police force. By wearing this uniform, we become a bit of an emergency worker for society, we make ourselves useful to others.

Resignations, suicides… the news regularly reminds us of the difficulties of your profession.

Working as a police officer requires self-sacrifice and investment. Even if the attacks against us continue to increase, we know that the majority of the population supports us. The episode of the yellow vests in 2018 and 2019 left its mark on us. The violence committed exceeded the threshold of tolerability, whether on the part of the demonstrators or the police.

Relations with young people in working-class neighborhoods, where you grew up, are tense. Are the police still up to their mission of maintaining order?

We must, as much as possible, remain calm, firm and courteous. However, our nerves are sometimes put to the test and we struggle to define the appropriate behavior for each situation. Let’s take the example of familiarity. I don’t see myself seeing a 13 year old kid who burned a trash can. On the contrary, by being familiar with him informally and speaking to him calmly, I can establish a direct relationship with him.

Was the end of community policing in 2003 a mistake?

I rarely speak out on political issues, but we must recognize that this decision hurt us. I served four years in the local urban police in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Our sources of information were the local butcher, the building caretaker. They knew the young people doing stupid things and allowed us to act effectively. We knew the terrain well and could arrest offenders more easily. However, the very ambitious project would have required more staff and therefore resources. We won’t go back but I can only regret that this experience did not last.

Your profession was marked by the attack in Magnanville, in Yvelines, in 2016, when a couple of police officers had their throats slit at their home. Has the profession overcome the trauma?

This tragedy shocked us terribly and was a turning point. We said to ourselves: whose turn is it? So anyone can be “outed” as we say in our jargon, identified and attacked in a private setting? Every year, on our National Day, July 9, we pay tribute to police officers who died in the line of duty.

Is talking about your vulnerabilities in the police still taboo?

It’s difficult. When you recognize that you are fragile, you become less operational, you can be sidelined by your hierarchy. We are “the forces of order”, we must always be on top, including on a psychological level.

From this point of view, is the monitoring sufficient?

During the attack at the Stade de France, on November 13, 2015, and the assault in Saint-Denis, on November 18, after the attack on the Bataclan and the terraces, I witnessed horrible scenes, bodies shredded… When those six days of terror were over, I simply went home, picked up my two daughters, and sat down to watch a Disney movie. It was my therapy. In the days and weeks that followed, I did not see any psychologist. With the exception of specialized services such as the BRI or the Raid (1), there is no compulsory regular psychological monitoring. I think it would be good to remedy this.

In your book Policeman, child of the Republic, you talk about the racism that exists among certain police officers. What is your most painful memory?

First, I want to say that this is not everyday, regular racism. But I remember, one day, walking into a colleague’s office. On the wall is an advertisement “Y’a bon Banania” for a brand of cocoa. It depicts a black man with big lips and a colonial hat. Shocked, I go towards it to remove it but I realize that it is an enameled plaque screwed to the wall. The intention is clear: even if you want to make it disappear, you won’t succeed.

I reported the incident to my boss who replied: “It’s not against you, it’s to make the bastards talk. » I told him that I found this initiative unacceptable and that if he did not force my colleague to immediately remove the plaque, I would go higher in the hierarchy to report the incident. It was finally withdrawn the next day, the person was sanctioned and I later learned of his dismissal for other racist actions.

Has this discrimination ever made your desire to serve in the police waver?

No never. Again, this is not systemic racism. I am simply angry when I hear a colleague who wears the uniform dirty it by calling a person with an immigrant background all the names. For me, those who make such comments have no place in the police and these actions must be denounced. I am confident because our body is one of the most controlled: it was the first of all administrations to adopt a code of ethics, to create a disciplinary body with the IGPN (2), to get closer to parity … And then, minds evolve.

You also experience racism from the African community…

On social networks, when I speak, I am entitled to comments like: “That’s it, the State has taken out its house ghost. » Some, even among my old friends, call me “sellout”, “mop” or even “Bounty”, in other words black on the outside, white on the inside. People who were once close became estranged simply by my joining the force. Moreover, I happened to question former delinquent friends with whom I had grown up, in Val-d’Oise. During police custody, we shared anecdotes, common childhood memories. When I think about it, it makes me weird. I tell myself that we were on parallel paths that forked at one point…

To summarize, racism exists among white people and also among black people. That of part of the African community proves even more hurtful to me. On the one hand, I am a foreigner who benefits from the advantages of France and who must return to his country, on the other I am a traitor, even though I am at home! Within the French police that I am so proud to serve, I draw my strength from my Africanness.

That’s to say ?

Resilience. But also education, family culture, respect for elders. I have never forgotten what my grandfather told me: “A young man runs fast but an old man knows the road. » Among the values ​​that are dear to me, there is also kindness and respect. You may not agree with the person in front of you, but above all, respect them! And then there is faith.

Are you a believer?

It’s very intimate but yes, I’m Muslim. Every evening, when my daughters go to bed, I read a verse from the Koran, I recite blessings to soothe their nights and give them the strength to face life. Just before the assault on the Bataclan terrorists, in Saint-Denis, on November 18, 2015, I said a blessing so that we could achieve our objective. Well, to be frank, I am also a secularist. After work, I like to go for drinks with my colleagues and laugh together about the stereotypes conveyed by religions. You have to know not to take yourself seriously.

(1) Research and intervention brigade. The Raid is a specialized intervention unit which contributes to the fight against all forms of crime.
(2) General Inspectorate of the National Police.

The biography of Abdoulaye Kanté

  • September 3, 1978. Born in Ivry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne).
  • 1980. Installation in Bamako (Mali).
  • 1993. Return to France, to Éragny (Val-d’Oise) where he was raised by his aunt.
  • 1999. Peacekeeper, in Paris.
  • 2009. Drug squad.
  • 2011. Entry into the judicial police sub-directorate, SDPJ 93.
  • November 13, 2015. Intervention at the Stade de France during the attacks in Saint-Denis and Paris.
  • 2018. Entry into the Directorate of International Security Cooperation (DCIS).

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