Comparison: Open Society Institute report on police racial profiling in France


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Hi Blog.  Tangental, but germane to the current discussions happening here.  This year the Open Society Institute in New York City released a report about the costs and effects of racial profiling in France. I think Japan and the NPA could learn something from this as well. Courtesy of Brad.  Full report at

Recommendations from the Executive Summary follow.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


To Political and Legal Authorities:

• Publicly acknowledge ethnic profiling by French police as a problem.

• Encourage and fund research to determine the magnitude of the problem in various localities across France.

• Undertake a broad review of the legal standards, policies and practices that underlie patterns of ethnic profiling.

• Modify Article 78.2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to include an explicit prohibition on discrimination by all police officers; to clarify and strengthen the grounds for reasonable suspicion that will serve as justification for police stops; and to clearly specify the circumstances under which searches or frisks may be carried out.

• Maintain and support specialized police oversight bodies like the National Commission on Security Ethics (Commission Nationale de Déontologie de la Sécurité) and equip them with sufficient resources (including financial) to monitor and analyze complaints data for possible discriminatory practices in stop and search and other forms of indirect discrimination.

• Work with local communities and associations on issues of non-discrimination to discuss ethnic profiling and develop policy responses grounded in consensus.

To French Law Enforcement Authorities:

• Review the operational guidelines and procedures that regulate police stop and search activities to determine whether they provide adequate protections against discrimination and ethnic profiling, and to ensure that they conform to the principles of non-discrimination. Provide specific guidance and training for police officers on ethnic profiling issues, including permissible versus impermissible uses of appearance in targeting identity checks.

• Require that officers explain the reason for identity check to all persons they stop, and provide all persons who are stopped with information on police and citizens’ rights and responsibilities.

• Regularly analyze stop records, and utilize the results in operational briefings and supervision of patrol officers as well as in the targeting of police operations that rely on identity checks to make sure that these powers are used in a fair and effective manner.

• Make public statistical data on identity checks, stops, and searches and their outcomes, and use this as the basis for outreach and dialogue with local residents to discuss the nature and reasons for any disproportionality that appears, and to seek alternative approaches based on agreements about local safety concerns.

• Review, and if necessary, strengthen the supervision of patrol officers’ use of identity checks, stops, and searches on grounds of fairness and effectiveness.

• Review all cases of rébellion or outrages (the French equivalents of “insulting an officer” or “resisting arrest”) to ensure that they do not reflect a pattern of repeated hostile encounters on the part of any individual officers or squads of the National Police, the National Gendarmerie, the Customs Police, and other law enforcement agencies. Where patterns are detected, they must be addressed through policy change, training, re-assignment and/or disciplinary measures as appropriate to the severity of the problem.

• Introduce mechanisms to obtain feedback from citizens on the quality of police services such as comment boxes, surveys, qualitative monitoring by community groups and the like to identify both good and bad practices.

Published by
Open Society Institute
400 West 59th Street
New York, NY 10019 USA

For more information contact:
Open Society Justice Initiative
400 West 59th Street
New York, NY 10019 USA


3 comments on “Comparison: Open Society Institute report on police racial profiling in France

  • Philip Adamek says:

    I did not read the entire report, but one safe conclusion that can be drawn from it is that a similar study and follow-up report would be heartily welcome in Japan.

    In French, there is an expression that is used frequently but not exclusively by the Maghrébins, or North-African immigrant population and their descendants, who feel particularly targeted by identity searches in France: “un abus de faciès,” as in “commettre un abus de faciès,” or sometimes “un délit de faciès” without any change in meaning. It would be hard to translate that literally, but the first part is, clearly, “to commit an abuse of…” The word “faciès” is an old, scholarly word referring to the face or more generally to one’s appearance and it takes on new vigor when employed in this expression, where it finds its only non-pedantic use in modern speech. I am curious whether there is any thing close to this expression in Japanese and, if so, whether the expression is commonly used/understood, or if, by contrast, it appears clunky or technical (like many “書き言葉”). The French expression codifies and stigmatizes the problem handily, and it would be useful if such a thing existed or at least could be invented in Japanese.

    prima facie suspicion?

  • Philip Adamek says:

    Yes, there’s an etymological relation between the two expressions (prima facie; délit de faciès); however, the expression as used in English does not usually have the negative connotations that the French expression always does have. I wondered if there’s an expression in colloquial Japanese for the abusive use of identity checks as witnessed to recently at your site and, if not, if it’s not time to create one and make it colloquial. Something that stings. Doing that would surely not solve a large societal problem, but it could bring attention to it and perhaps raise public awareness.

    — gaijin gari… trying to come up with things that deal with “face”… fukumen patoka-, menjuu fukuhai, mentsuu… Oh I don’t know. Too tired tonight to be linguistically nimble.

  • I never heard “abus de facies”, the expression may have developed recently, it does sound strange to me. “Delit de facies” is the standard expression (non official, of course, but not slang either). By the way, in “delit de facies”, the one committing the “delit” (unlawful act) is the person with a foreign-looking face. The expression is used ironically: the only thing this person has done that (doesn’t) justify him being stopped and checked or more by the cops is this “delit de facies”.


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