From our special correspondent
It suffices to spend a few hours at the Arles rescue center (Bouches-du-Rhône) to learn about the stories of assaults, suffered by firefighters according to their assignments. In Martigues, this motorist tired of having to wait for the emergency services to clear the road: “He got on the sidewalk and kicked me. I had to deal with my frustration: that of not being able to answer him because I was in uniform… ” In Lille, this firearm aimed at the head of a sapper during an intervention in an apartment: “After that, with our colleagues, we switched to the police method: we walked around every room before rescuing, we opened all the doors, to be sure to be safe. “ In Arles, this victim “Delirious” who had ripped off an old lieutenant’s T-shirt: “She scratched my chest until it blew, but I didn’t want to press charges. She was a poor woman, I didn’t want to add to her distress. “
In France in 2019, 2,045 physical and verbal assaults were recorded against firefighters (1). A phenomenon that increased sharply between 2008 and 2017 (+ 213%) – which had participated in the strike movement organized in the summer of 2019 – but decreased in 2019. The strengthening of the action plan in the face of “Daily assaults” will be at the heart of the general assembly of firefighters in France, which takes place on Saturday, October 17.
Today, the filing of a complaint is systematic in the event of physical assault, but also verbal. The recording of these complaints, which may be anonymous, was further facilitated this summer at the request of the Ministry of the Interior: hearings by the police in the rescue centers and no longer at the police station, filing of a second complaint by the fire and rescue services (Sdis) of the department … A firefighter from Arles deciphers: “Now the general idea of the hierarchy is zero tolerance. The firefighters are filing more and more complaints, which logically increases the number of attacks. “
“The systematic complaint, I am for it. “ Cédric G. has been a firefighter since 1991. In April 2019, he filed a complaint against a man who had insulted him and threatened with death. “I obtained € 500 in damages (fully donated to the Oeuvre des Pupilles, Editor’s note), but I had encouraged the judge to be more severe.This man, I was trying to help him. We cannot allow ourselves to be attacked or insulted so gratuitously… ”
Franck Froidure, who joined a sapper in 1992, sees things a little differently. Trade unionist (Unsa), he is pleased that the departmental directors of Sdis are “Out of denial” concerning assaults, but asks: “We often hear firefighters say: ‘We only come to help and we receive violence’… But what are the causes of this violence? It’s not just about the hatred of the uniform and authority, that would be too simple. ” Regarding ambush, in certain working-class neighborhoods: “It can be anger, but also a strategy to lure the police away from a drug transfer, for example. “
In Arles, the poverty rate is much higher than the national average (23% against 14.1%). And personal assistance represents 80 to 85% of the 8,500 annual interventions by the city’s firefighters. It is most often during these missions that firefighters are confronted with aggressive people, sometimes in psychological distress. “Sometimes you jostle someone, without doing it on purpose, with the bag, and the person gets hot, says Olivier, professional firefighter for twenty years. All it takes is nothing, but three quarters of the time the pressure drops as quickly as it had risen. “
When this is not the case, it is not uncommon for the “apparatus manager”, the one who usually approaches the victim first, to stand back and let a colleague take over. “We call it the drawer effect, explains Jérôme B., firefighter in Arles and Gapec trainer (management of physical aggression of people in crisis) in the private sector. Sometimes, you have to accept that the current does not flow with a person without really knowing why. “ Training courses to teach firefighters to intervene “In degraded environment” are developing.