The French Electronic Police Docket, a Little-Known Public Security Tool

by Frédéric Ocqueteau – october 2015

Frédéric Ocqueteau is a sociologist and a political scientist doing research at the CESDIP. He is a specialist in security-related policies and professions.

 

Since the February 24, 1995 inaugural decree, the electronic police docket (main courante informatisée, or MCI, henceforth EPD), descendant of the time-honored paper version of the police docket (MC), has become an important tool in human resources management and action in urban communities for all French police stations. However, few studies have been made of this steering instrument for administrative and judicial policing, which now entirely structures the organization and resources of public security to the point where earlier management practices are no longer recognizable. The fact is that this tool is often wrongly viewed as merely counting complaints and grievances at police station desks. Now, as shown below, the present study reveals something different, and above all that the EPD has set in motion a mechanism modifying the structure and reshuffling power relations within local police bureaucracies. Indeed, the EPD has become a multipurpose tool, much coveted outside of police stations and not only by the upper echelons of public security for their sole interests. Above all, it tends to shift and recompose the power relations opposing the various public security services.

The official purpose of the EPD was reformulated in the June 22, 2011 decree that assigned it a fourfold mission: the purpose of the new EPD is to facilitate the processing of reports by the public and of events dealt with by police services so as to improve the efficiency of action; to facilitate the operational management of police services and their officers as well as to monitor evaluation of their work; to improve the quality of reception of the public ; to produce statistics on the activities of police services.

As to private parties who turn to police stations because they are victims or claimants, the “police docket” offers two possible responses to their needs: they may either lodge a formal complaint supposedly leading, theoretically, to subsequent legal action, or simply informally report on a problem without lodging a complaint, which report will be stored forever. For the Public Prosecutor’s Office, police dockets generally remain a marginally useful source of information in reconstituting crimes and misdemeanors in view of subsequent action. They represent an “infra-penal police memory” on which it does little a posteriori checking, in spite of official recommendations. For the “police bureaucracy”, on the other hand, on which our investigation chose to focus, it constitutes a managerial tool for standardizing the work of public security officers much more than a device for anticipating the local disturbances and adjusting police action to them.

 

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