Maurice Grimaud dies at 95; former Paris police chief

Maurice Grimaud
Both Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the leader of the 1968 uprising, praised Maurice Grimaud, who urged restraint and the opening of a dialogue.
(Michel Lipchitz / Associated Press)
Associated Press

Maurice Grimaud, who as Paris police chief played a key role in avoiding major bloodshed during France’s student uprising in May 1968, has died. He was 95.

Grimaud died July 16, Paris police headquarters said; the cause of death was not specified. He was buried Tuesday at the city’s Pere-Lachaise cemetery, the resting ground for statesmen and artists including Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin and Jim Morrison.

Grimaud won posthumous praise from both France’s law-and-order president and a leftist leader of the 1968 revolt.

“With Maurice Grimaud, it’s a great protagonist and a great witness of our country’s contemporary history that disappears,” said President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is known for his tough stance on crime.

A leader of the student uprising, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, said that although Grimaud was “on the other side of the conflict, he’s someone I’ve greatly admired.”

“Maintaining law and order didn’t mean aggressive actions toward protesters,” Cohn-Bendit said.

“He understood the students’ revolt,” he said.

The would-be revolution, the defining event of postwar France, started in May 1968 with protests at a university west of Paris demanding that women and men be allowed to visit each other’s dormitory rooms.

Trade unions joined in, and 10 million workers went on strike. Longtime labor issues were quickly resolved, and the students uprooted the nation’s attitudes toward authority.

When students occupied Sorbonne University and the buildings around France’s Left Bank, Grimaud was credited for urging police restraint and showing willingness to start dialogue with protesters.

A native of southern France, Grimaud was born Nov. 11, 1913. He studied literature and began his career at the seat of the French colonial administration in Morocco in 1936.

He then worked in Algeria and Germany and later served as a local governor and aide to then-Interior Minister Francois Mitterrand.

He succeeded Nazi-era collaborator Maurice Papon as head of the Paris police force, where he served from 1967 to 1971.

Grimaud received the prestigious Legion of Honor award and wrote two books.

Get our Today's Headlines newsletter