The shoplifter screams in shock as three towering French policemen speed towards him, grab his arms and legs, lift him up and drag him away—on rollerblades.
Within seconds, rollerblading officer Stephane Ajuelos has handcuffed a colleague posing as a thief.
This is all part of the training programme for the Paris police’s latest weapon in the fight against crime—a 50-strong rollerblading police squad.
“Criminals are totally taken aback,”said Ajuelos.“Some don’t even try to run away when they see us. We’re tall on our blades, and very fast. They know they don't have a chance to escape.”
Aujuelos, 29, is one of 50 officers who have passed the tough entry test to join Paris’s rollerblading police squad.
Officers on rollerblades have been spotted in places like Amsterdam, London, Miami Beach and Stockholm, but they can’t beat the French capital's speedy force, said the unit’s creator Marc Bella, a 42-year-old former speed-skating champion.
The unit initially numbered eight and its main job was to monitor the weekly processions of rollerbladers, which can number in the thousands, through the streets of Paris.
The rollerblading officers, who patrol the streets of Paris in blue uniforms, wearing knee and elbow pads and crash helmets, provoke mixed reactions among Parisians.
“It makes the officers seem more young and fun,”said Alain Croullebois, 37, adding that French police in general have become much stricter since the government made it easier for officers to hand out fines.