The investigation of a life. The film “November”, which will be released in cinemas this Wednesday, tells the investigation after the attacks of November 13th. Jean Dujardin, Anaïs Demoustier and Sandrine Kiberlain interpret the roles of the police officers of the Sdat, the anti-terror subdirectory of the criminal police who spent five days tracking down the accomplices of the terrorists who killed 131 people in Paris and Saint-Denis.
“It was a race against time,” he says 20 minutes Raphaëlle*, a former Sdat investigator who, like the characters in the film, didn’t count her hours to find the trail of Abdelhamid Abaaoud. The terrorist’s death during an attack by the raiders in Saint-Denis “was the start of the investigation for us,” she stresses.
The police officer recently went to the preview of the film with colleagues. She gives us her impressions of the work of Cédric Jimmenez and how she experienced that tragic night and the subsequent investigation by the criminal police.
What did you think of the film, you, who was the focus of the investigation?
I went to the preview with colleagues. They found it a little disturbing because we haven’t really been able to define what we’ve experienced so far. The investigation was so extraordinary that it was difficult for some investigators to find a “normal” life as a police officer after all these years.
“November” is primarily an action film that tells the story of the hunt for Abaaoud and the five days after November 13th. He’s out of breath, but it’s still fiction, it’s not documentary. So there are things that do not correspond to reality.
For example, the roles of Jean Dujardin, Anaïs Demoustiers and Sandrine Kiberlain are each inspired by several real-life cops. But if Anaïs Demoustier acts alone, that wouldn’t really be possible. An SDAT cop would never do that. We’re being extremely consistent in this investigation, we’re not just doing anything. But it was necessary for the feathers of the scenario. And it works fine.
Do you remember when you found out that attacks were underway?
It was a quiet evening. We went home. I remember leaving work, it must have been 9pm. On the way they called me back. The anti-terrorism deputy director was inundated with calls, as were his deputy and department heads. If there’s an attack, we don’t have to call our colleagues back, they come back to the department, to Levallois, of their own accord as soon as they find out what’s happening.
We took stock of the available staff and set up the planned system. On November 13, it was the Paris criminal police with the anti-terrorist department of the criminal brigade that made the first findings. We joined them to obtain and centralize information.
The Sdat should coordinate the entire investigation. She was able to draw on the territorial network of the criminal police, the help of the science police, the DGSI and our colleagues from public security. We quickly set up the toll-free 197 emergency number. It enabled us to obtain the testimony of a woman who saved us time in our search for Abaaoud.
Was the sdat prepared to investigate an attack of this magnitude?
By definition we are never prepared for the worst case scenario, we never knew that. On the other hand, since 2005, the Sdat had expected several attack scenarios. There had been attacks in Britain and we had said to ourselves that a special system would have to be put in place if that were to happen in France. It is this system that we introduced on November 13: we are preparing to investigate with various workshops. Everything is very formalized. This organization has been anticipated and evolves after each attack, based on feedback.
How was the atmosphere at Sdat in the days after the attacks?
Just like in the film: tiredness, nervousness… We really wanted it to stop. The fleeing terrorists had to be neutralized as quickly as possible because a new attack on La Défense was feared. It was a race against time.
When it comes to the police, what counts most in such hardship cases is the collective. We help each other, we listen to each other among colleagues. We are gripped by a mission that is a bit overwhelming, even on a personal level. We didn’t come home for days. If we hadn’t gotten along, it would never have been possible. All of this has strengthened the bonds that have united us and which have become unbreakable.
After the raid on Saint-Denis, were you relieved by the raid?
As the film clearly shows, the neutralization of Abaaoud marked the beginning of the investigation for us. We must not forget that the investigation has lasted more than four years and that the trial took place only recently! We have traveled to 25 countries, held hundreds of police custody, written thousands of reports… It has been several years of very intense collective work.
Several countries around the world asked us to give them feedback as France was one of the few European countries hit so hard by attacks. After that, the Sdat has gained expertise, its organization has progressed, it has received reinforcements… The experience of the criminal police in relation to investigations and investigations in general is exceptional, especially in the case of multiple victims, which fortunately is exceptional.
*Name has been changed