When a French police officer was found guilty on Friday of assaulting Théo Luhaka, a 22-year-old Black man, during a 2017 identity check that led to his arrest, lawyers on both sides left the courthouse claiming victory in one of France’s most publicized cases of police abuse.

Mr. Luhaka, now 29, was officially recognized as a victim of police brutality after a seven-year legal ordeal. But the officer received only a one-year suspended sentence and was cleared of a more serious charge that he had permanently mutilated Mr. Luhaka. Neither side seemed intent on appealing.

On Saturday in Aulnay-sous-Bois, the northeastern suburb of Paris where Mr. Luhaka was assaulted and where he still lives, residents said they felt more disillusioned than encouraged. To them, progress in punishing police misconduct felt like the biting winter air: glacial.

“There is a two-tier justice system,” said Mohamed Djezzar, 29, a computer engineering student. Even though the officer and two of his colleagues were convicted, the sentences were too light, Mr. Djezzar added. Friends often complain of repeated, unwarranted identity checks, he said, and this case will do little to unseat deeply rooted animosity toward the police.

“I was under no illusions,” Mr. Djezzar said, his breath forming misty clouds of condensation in the frigid air. “It’s always the same thing.”

Mr. Djezzar was exercising in a hilly, snow-covered park not far from the low-slung concrete apartment blocks that Mr. Luhaka was cutting through in 2017 when three officers subdued him during an identity check. One of them thrust a baton at Mr. Luhaka’s upper thigh and caused a four-inch tear to his rectum.

The incident triggered several days of rioting, pushed François Hollande, then France’s president, who was Socialist, to visit Mr. Luhaka in the hospital, and led Emmanuel Macron, then a presidential candidate, to promise he would create a police force better attuned to local communities.

A preliminary government report later found that much of that week’s looting, arson and vandalism was opportunistic. But simmering anger about heavy-handed police tactics in France’s poorer urban suburbs, which are often home to people with immigrant backgrounds, provided the initial spark.

Sébastian Roché, a policing expert at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, said that Mr. Luhaka’s case was “emblematic” of “persistent” problems in those suburbs, like identity checks that are a cover for racial profiling, or the disproportionate use of nonlethal but potentially dangerous weapons like tear gas grenades and rubber bullets.

SOS Racisme, one of France’s main anti-discrimination groups, said in a statement on Friday that Mr. Luhaka’s case should push French authorities “to finally open a debate and initiate reforms to ensure this never happens again.”

But Mr. Macron, now president, and Gérald Darmanin, his tough-talking interior minister, have shown little appetite for those kinds of changes. French officials have dismissed accusations of systemic problems with racism and violence among the police.

At a recent news conference, Mr. Macron vowed that the police would clear out notorious drug trafficking spots every week and that the number of police officers in the streets would be doubled. But he was less specific on ways to reduce discrimination, focusing instead on measures like school uniforms and mandatory community service for teenagers that he said would foster national unity.

Police unions have also fought back against attempts to curb some aggressive policing methods, arguing that officers face increasingly dangerous working conditions in areas rife with drug trafficking.

In 2020, after furious union protests, the government softened key provisions of a proposal to ban chokeholds during arrests after the death of Cédric Chouviat, a deliveryman who was pinned to the ground and put in such a hold.

Linda Kebbab, a spokeswoman for Unité SGP Police, one of France’s largest police unions, told reporters at the courthouse on Friday that the three officers convicted of assaulting Mr. Luhaka could not be faulted for doing a “difficult” job in a “very complicated” drug-dealing spot. As she spoke, anti-police violence activists tried to drown her out with chants.

“Some want the head of police officers as trophies,” Ms. Kebbab shot back.

Bruno Pomart, the head of an association that organizes police outreach workshops, said that French authorities have long been suspicious of softer approaches to local policing. Mr. Macron once derided the notion that it was an officer’s job to “play soccer with young people.”

“Over 36 years in the force, I had a lot of trouble getting people to subscribe to this approach,” said Mr. Pomart, a retired police officer who created the association, Raid Aventure, in 1992. “It wasn’t in the police’s DNA.”

Attitudes have changed slightly, he said. Every year, his group organizes over 100 workshops, with sports activities, first-aid classes or explanations of policing methods, that are led by volunteer officers in cities around France.

But many high-profile legal cases involving police misconduct have yet to reach a trial — or never will — after years of tortuous investigations, further fueling a sense that the system is stacked against victims of police brutality.

An investigation into the case of Adama Traoré, who died in 2016 after three officers pinned him to the ground during an arrest, was closed in September without any charges filed. In the case of Zineb Redouane, an 80-year-old woman who died in 2018 after being hit by a tear gas grenade as she was closing her windows during a Yellow Vest protest in Marseille, no one has been charged.

Officers have been charged in the case of Michel Zecler, a Black music producer who in 2020 was beaten by the police in the vestibule of the building where he keeps his music studio — but no trial date has been set.

“Each time there is a case like this, we go backward,” said Réda Didi, a community organizer at the head of Graines de France, an association that tries to improve relations with institutions like the police with writing or theater workshops and conversations with famous athletes.

Last summer, one of the group’s programs at a middle school in Nanterre, the suburb where Mr. Merzouk was killed, had to be paused for a month because tensions were running too high, he said.

While the pace of institutional change is slow, experts see signs that public opinion is moving slightly faster, especially with the ubiquity of video. Mr. Merzouk’s shooting and Mr. Luhaka’s arrest were both captured on camera.

Mr. Roché, the policing expert, said the growing number of cases over the past few years — coupled with the rise of small but active advocacy groups, often centered around victims’ families — have shifted what kind of police methods society deems acceptable.

“Public opinion moves first, then the courts,” Mr. Roché said, noting that while convictions of officers accused of misconduct are still uncommon, more cases are going to trial.

In September, five officers based in Pantin, a northern suburb of Paris, were found guilty of violent assault and of writing false police reports. This month, in Nice, a police captain stood trial for ordering a riot-police charge against Yellow Vest protesters in 2019 that left a protester with a fractured skull.

“There is a tension in every democracy” between civil rights and the rules that govern police use of intrusive or violent tools, Mr. Roché said. “What’s at stake is how you adjust the cursor between the two,” he added. “And that’s what these cases highlight.”

In Aulnay-sous-Bois, many felt the cursor still needed adjusting.

Yamina Abdel, 50, said that the officer convicted of injuring Mr. Luhaka “should have done at least a bit of prison time.” Bundled up in a beige winter coat and a giant scarf, she kept her arms moving to stay warm in the bitter cold.

“Wasn’t that case seven years ago?” she added. “Feels like it was yesterday.”

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