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Paris - French prosecutors launched an investigation after a video showing a police officer beating a black woman with a baton and spraying teargas directly into her face sparked outrage.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls said on Tuesday that prosecutors in the central city of Tours had ordered the IGPN police internal affairs branch to investigate after the video, called “Shame on the French police”, was posted on the Internet on Sunday.
“An investigation has been opened. The matter has been referred to the IGPN,” Valls told BFMTV.
“We need the whole truth and full transparency... The police must be irreproachable, the vast majority of police officers carry out difficult and remarkable work.”
The eight-minute video, which was viewed more than 690 000 times on YouTube, was filmed from the upper storey of a building and shows two police officers trying to subdue a woman in the street.
Filmed early on Sunday in the Tours suburb of Joue-les-Tours, the video does not show the beginning of the altercation, which local newspaper La Nouvelle Republique said started when police stopped a car driving erratically at 7am.
The newspaper said the driver of the car was drunk and refused to submit to an alcohol test. It quoted police sources as saying a female passenger in the car intervened, repeatedly biting one of the officers.
The video shows the officer wrestling with the woman on the street, then striking her several times in the body with his baton and once fully in the face.
He then retrieves a bottle of teargas from the boot of his police car and sprays it directly into her face.
The clearly enraged police officer then sprays another female passenger in the face with the teargas, before several more police vehicles arrive.
The video caused deep outrage, with more than 13 500 comments posted on YouTube.
“Bravo to the French police! As racist, violent and disrespectful as ever,” one viewer commented. “What a disgrace.”
But other comments noted that the video did not show the entire altercation, with some saying the police officer may have been justified in defending himself.
A police union representative warned against drawing conclusions from the video without knowing all the facts.
“The video may seem shocking but we don't know the context,” Gaelle James of France's second-largest police union, Synergie Officiers, told AFP.
She said the officer involved had reacted after being pinned down by the woman and bitten three times.
“He clubbed her to get away,” James said. “He had to intervene under very difficult conditions. We cannot forget that violence against the police is increasing. This doesn't shock me.” - AFP