Women aboard one of the manliest French administrations.

Le texte original : « Les drôles de dames du 36 quai des Orfèvres« , par Eric Pelletier, sur le site de l’Express.

Women aboard one of the manliest French administrations.

La Crim”, the emblematic criminal squad of Paris, is now being run by two female superintendents. A never before seen.

The only personal touch Yvette Bertrand has brought in her office is pictures of her children, whose cheerful faces now brighten the walls up. Yvette Bertrand, the discreet new head of Paris criminal squad, is not a radical changes addict. Other ladies have also taken over the place, whose address, “36 quai des Orfèvres”, is now famous in France. Wearing jeans or suits, depending on their age, they all have the same “Police” jacket, hanging on the coat rack. Today, four over the five superintendents of “la Crim” are women – a never seen before event amongst the French criminal police.

And yet none of them tries to get back at what has been for a long time a men’s world. Yvette Bertrand, 52, used to work in the narcotics unit and after that in the “under-age protection unit” (working on cases whose victims are under 18). Owing to this experience, she was chosen to run “la Crim”. She relies on a 38 year-old female assistant, Frédérique Conri.

As for Maris Daures, 32, she coordinates the common-law investigations : homicides, abductions or deadly arsons. A fourth superintendent, whose identity shall remain secret for safety reasons, runs the very sensitive anti-terrorist unit.

For these “Crim girls”, having to be available 24 hours a day is not a burden, but a “pleasure”. “It is precisely for the unexpected part of the job that we choose this particular public service” emphasizes Yvette Bertrand, mother to a 15 year-old teenage girl. “Besides, manage this kind of schedules is not exclusively a women’s problem, adds Frédérique Conri. Separated men face the same troubles, especially when they have part child custody.”

This seizure of power, if well noticed outside the headquarters, did not arouse many comments amongst the 104 civil servants of the criminal section, of whom are a fourth of women. Here, superiors are referred to as “chef”, a neutral, asexual word in French. In 1976 police forces were still manly swelling with pride on the recruitment posters. But this “male profession”, according to a slogan then used, did eventually adapt itself to women. As reported by the last statistics available, the Home Office counts almost 26% of policewomen, even if only 10% of the head offices are trusted to women’s hands.

Today, another “class conflict” is taking shape in the police : officers (former detectives) now claim the same duties superintendents have. Sex war is cooling down. Ranks war, however, is just starting to rise.

A female batch.

The superintendent entrance examination has been open to women for some 35 years. The number of new recruits increases every year in spite of high variations depending on the recruitment channels : external (predominantly female) or internal (still dominated by men).

Women were only 12 over 59 in 2006. This year, the “class” counts 27 women, that it, 46% of the whole. A record. Martine Monteil, who was the first woman to run the criminal squad, was part of the board of examiners. But by no means she should be suspected of positive discrimination. Just try to greet her by calling her “Madame la Commissaire”… A minister did, once, which got her quite angry.