Three French police officers were on Tuesday handed 15-month suspended jail sentences over the 2015 killing of a Black man in Paris. According to Euronews, the sentences were handed out to the officers after the court convicted them of manslaughter in the death of Amadou Koumé.
The fatal encounter occurred while the officers were arresting Koumé at a bar. Two of the officers allegedly strangled Koumé, 33, and pinned him to the ground with their knees. The third defendant – a high-ranking officer – was on duty at the time of the incident.
The officers allegedly placed Koumé, who had dementia, in a chokehold during the arrest. They also left him on his front for over six minutes after they handcuffed him. Koumé’s cause of death was later ruled as “slow mechanical asphyxiation.”
And though the deceased Black man’s family expressed satisfaction with the court’s verdict, they said the punishment that was handed out to the accused officers was too “lenient.”
“It is a satisfaction to hear the word guilty in such a case, but the sentence is relatively lenient, so there is a piece of justice that has been done,” the lawyer representing Koumé’s family, Eddy Arneton, said.
“It will not bring back Amadou, but his family now knows precisely the circumstances in which he died and also knows that his death was caused by police officers, so it is a step, and we welcome it as such.”
The court determined that the convicted officers committed “faults” that resulted in the death of the Black man, Euronews reported. The court also ruled that defendants’ use of force against Koumé was “insufficiently controlled”, and that left him at risk without also checking on his condition.
In the wake of Koumé’s death, his name was used as a slogan in protests against police brutality in some areas, Reuters reported. Rights groups also say individuals with mostly immigrant backgrounds who accuse French police of brutality and racism usually have their complaints relegated to the background. And these reports and complaints mostly come from city suburbs that are underprivileged.
In the wake of George Floyd’s 2020 death and the global anti-racism protests that ensued, the French government assured “zero tolerance” for racism in the country’s police force.