Europe 1 with AFP 18:22 p.m., December 20, 2023

Céline Berthon, a police officer with a meteoric rise, reputed to be "loyal" and "competent", was appointed on Wednesday as director general of internal security (DGSI), becoming the first woman to hold this position. A police officer with a remarkable career, she "will have to lead one of the most sensitive administrations in our country," Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wrote on X.

Céline Berthon, 47, had been the number two in the National Police General Directorate (DGPN) since April. Many saw her as programmed to become DGPN, succeeding Frédéric Veaux, whose mandate is due to end in September 2024, after the Olympics.

"I asked him to join me when I took office in 2020," Veaux told AFP. "I knew her for her skills, her knowledge of the field, of the network." His "qualities and skills are recognized by everyone," he adds. "She knows how to unite the teams around her." "He's someone I have a lot of respect and trust for," he said.

She was the first woman to be chief of staff of the DGPN in 2021, and was also the first woman appointed head of the Central Directorate of Public Security (DCSP) in the same year, at a time when Place Beauvau was seeking to increase the number of women in its management positions.

A career rich in experience

She is "brilliant, loyal, upright and intellectually remarkable," says one of her close police colleagues. She has a "vision of what the police should be, including what they owe to the population," he added. The daughter of a police officer in the intelligence service and an administrative officer in the private sector, Céline Berthon grew up in the Paris region. After graduating from the commissioners' school in 2000, she began her career in public security in the Yvelines, managing several police stations.

In 2005, she joined the staff of the DCSP, which oversees all the police stations in France. She then worked for two years at the Sub-Directorate of General Information (SDIG, formerly Territorial Intelligence), where she was responsible for "monitoring economic and social life and its consequences in terms of public order", according to the ministry. Appointed head of the powerful commissioners' union (SCPN) in 2014, "she knew how to be pugnacious when necessary", according to her close colleague.

"Direct and straightforward"

"She is direct and frank," but "without ever breaking the dialogue," added Grégory Joron, head of the Unité Police-FO union. "We had points of difference and even if we didn't always get what we wanted, she was still listening, especially when she was in the DGPN's office," he adds. In 2018, the current prefect of police in Paris, Laurent Nuñez, at the time director of the DGSI, brought her to the domestic intelligence service. She took up a position as deputy in the counter-terrorism sub-directorate.

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"I had entrusted him with the explanation to the executives of the House of Reform" of the DGSI, designated leader of the fight against terrorism. "She helped me convince," Nuñez told AFP. "She combines great human qualities with great professional qualities," he continues. She also worked under the direction of Nicolas Lerner, her predecessor, who was appointed on Wednesday as head of the DGSE.