About 48 weeks of yellow vest violence has finally sent the French police force to their breaking point. Deteriorating working conditions, low morale, and a suicide crisis have taken a significant toll on officers. Conditions are so disturbing that tens of thousands of people, including many police officers, staged a protest this week in the streets of Paris over their frustrations, reported AFP.
Police unions have warned since the yellow vest violence broke out, some 52 officers have committed suicide since January.
Organizers of the protest said 27,000 police officers of all ranks came together on the streets of Paris on Wednesday.
"We're here to fight for our working conditions and above all to pay tribute to our colleagues who took their own lives," said Damien, a young police officer.
Cyril Benoit, an officer with over two decades of service, said the yellow vest protests have severely stressed the force, triggering a wave of suicides in the last nine months.
Benoit blamed "physical and psychological fatigue" and unwanted pressure from senior officers to meet unrealistic goals during the violent protests.
"There's always been a bit of pressure on the police but never like this," he told AFP.
Another office blamed the press for one-sided coverage of the protests, indicating that the media mostly showed police officers beating protests.
"Television keeps replaying videos of (allegedly brutal) police actions but you don't see the paving stone that flew overhead seconds before," he said.
"There is a deep sense that things can't go on like this," said David Bars, secretary-general of the police chief union SCPN-Unsa.
"All the unions are aware that the police force is ill."
Police have said they're under-equipped and understaffed for the next wave of violence.
"There is a deep sense of despair," Le Bars told AFP. "All of the unions know that the police are sick with worry."
One officer told Le Parisien, a French daily newspaper, that "We were heroes, but we've become zeros."
Another officer told AFP on Wednesday, that he and fellow officers feel like the "dregs of society" at this point.
Nearly every officer who spoke with AFP or French media gave false names, out of fear that their neighbors would retaliate against them.
Christophe Castaner, the interior minister, has pledged deep reforms to help the country's ailing police force.
And to make matters worse, social unrest is increasing at a time when France's economy is faltering. On top of everything else, a weak police force, angry citizens, and economic turmoil could make President Emmanuel Macron days numbered.