Toulouse: a night with the guardian angels of the city center of the Pink City
The police officers of the BST Center are responsible for securing the heart of Toulouse. On a daily basis, they face many illegal immigrants and people in extreme precariousness. Reportage.
The hall of Matabiau station is squared by the police. The national and municipal police divide up the space in order to be as efficient as possible. Olivier, one of the heads of the BST center (Specialized Field Brigade) in charge of this operation decided by the Toulouse prosecutor’s office, observes the comings and goings near the escalators. His gaze is fixed on a group of young people.
This experienced policeman, whose sense of observation has sharpened during the years spent in the hot suburbs of the Paris region, addresses one of them in a firm tone but with a certain benevolence. His interlocutor seems to “plane”. His movements are suspiciously slow and his blissful smile suggests that he has ingested or smoked toxic substances. Negotiated on the black market for 1.50 euros, the pill, pregabalin, a powerful antiepileptic, nicknamed “cocaine of the poor” by the police, wreaks havoc among undocumented migrants. “As far as this young man is concerned, I don’t know if he took it, but we observe that this product is very unfortunately among this category of people in an irregular situation. They are seized by a feeling of euphoria and this disinhibits them strongly… This can potentiate criminal acts, in particular thefts where they can attack people. We must also be extra vigilant when arresting them”, explains Olivier.
‘Poor man’s cocaine’ wreaks havoc
The chief brigadier asks the young man for his papers. The latter has nothing on him. He explains that everything is at his home. However, he declines his identity. Olivier takes out his phone and does a quick search on dedicated software. This national of a North African country is subject to an OQTF (obligation to leave French territory). He has the obligation to check in every week at the central police station.
Theoretically, he is “deportable” at any time by the border police. Throughout the evening, the police check more or less the same profiles; young men, aged under 30 in an irregular situation. Most are quite cooperative. Things go wrong in a flash. A thirty-something, yet in good standing, swings a few bird names to the police.
Helping a homeless
He is taken care of by the municipal police. He vehemently refused to be checked. It takes time to come back down in pressure, disturbed by the yelps and the jumps of the dog of the agents.
Olivier enters the scene and manages in a few words to calm this individual. We found a few seals on him. He is liable for a fine. Like this young man arrested in the nearby metro, a cocaine capsule and cannabis resin hidden in his underwear…
A woman in her forties passes by. She is carrying five large suitcases. On the street, she was turned away from several hotels in the area.
She wanders between the station hall and the metro entrance. Olivier and William, two sons, approach him to find out more about the situation. The dialogue begins. “Have you contacted 115?” Asks Olivier. “It does not respond”, laconically slips the SDF. The policeman then offers him to spend the night in the reception room of the central police station. “You have the possibility of going there as a last resort. You will be warm there”, assures him the brigadier-in-chief. The patrol continues without a hitch. The second part of the night promises to be more sporty, it will be necessary to secure the exits from the bars of the Saint-Pierre district and the surrounding nightclubs.
“We have made great efforts to strengthen the posts on the public highway”, indicates Jean-Cyrille Reymond, the boss of the Toulouse police.
How many police officers have joined your ranks since 2020?
“The workforce of the DDSP 31 has seen a net increase of 94 police officers. They are assigned primarily to the districts of Republican reconquest, particularly to the north of Toulouse. A major effort has also been put into designated posts on the public highway, particularly in emergency police. Finally, these new recruits are appointed to judicial positions, in particular to deal with intra-family matters. In this unit, the number of staff has been doubled, from 14 to 28.”
What do foot and mountain bike patrols provide in terms of safety?
“They give visibility, allow easier contact, and they also have a deterrent role. They also participate in multiple daily interventions.”
How do you manage people subject to an OQTF on a daily basis?
“During identity checks carried out on requisition and under the control of the public prosecutor, it may be found that a person is illegally residing or is the subject of an obligation to leave the territory. In these two cases , after having been heard, the person concerned is placed under the system of administrative restraint. The questioning service then attaches to the prefecture, which is responsible for instructing the removal procedure to be implemented.
How will the reform of the national police against which some police officers and magistrates protest will improve the fight against delinquency?
“It will give the means to the various components of the police, public security, intelligence, border police and PJ) to come together within single national and territorial entities. This will give rise to better coordination of work. The fact that there is a single leader in the judicial chain is more consistent.”