by René LÉVY and Fabien JOBARD – january 2010

This new version of Penal Issues replaces the previous one which had a mistake.

We apologie to our readers.

René LÉVY and Fabien JOBARD outline the results of the first French quantitative study of identity checks based on direct observation. This investigation was made possible by collaboration between the CESDIP and the Open Society Justice Initiative, which financed it. It was conducted in collaboration with Rachel NEILD and Indira GORIS of the Open Society Justice Initiative and John LAMBERTH of Lamberth Consulting.


Of all the prerogatives the French police forces exercise in public places, the identity check (IC) is certainly the one that draws the most frequent reproaches of bias, harassment, and discrimination. The French commonly use the term contrôle au faciès, or looks-based checks, for what specialists call ethnic or racial profiling. This designates the « use by the police, with no objective and reasonable justification, of grounds such as race, colour, language, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin, in control, surveillance, or investigative activities » [1].

[1] ECRI, General Policy Recommendation n. 11 on Combating Racism and Racial Discrimination in Policing (resolution adopted June 29, 2007).

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