I have heard the following sentences said by police officers in a police raid in the TV series "La Mante":

  • Mains sur la tête! Tête en avant!

What does "tête en avant" mean? AFAIK "head forward" is not something English-speaking police officers would normally say when they are arresting someone. Does it mean "look forward" ?

  • 2
    "Face forward" or "facing forward" in this context. If I can find a reference, I'll make a better answer. Heads up.
    – livresque
    Jun 16 '20 at 1:23
  • 1
    A general comment that may help you: in a lot of everyday contexts and common phrases, French speakers tend to use the word "tête" where English speakers would use the word "face", and keep the matching word "visage" for situations when they need to be specific about the body part (ex: "montre-moi ta tête", "tu fais une drôle de tête" "j'ai déjà vu cette tête", "j'aime bien voir de nouvelles têtes").
    – Greg
    Jun 16 '20 at 12:41

It is an assertive and short way to ask "regardez devant vous". I guess that the police officers are coming from behind and are ordering the criminals to not turn around.

EDIT: as in this context, the police officers are stopping a car and are coming from the front, it means they want the criminals to not look behind them and try to pull back.

  • The police officers are coming from the front in this context, they are halting a moving car with the suspects inside. Jun 16 '20 at 10:39
  • 1
    It can also mean "tilt your head forward" as well, as suggested. If the criminals are in a car, both can work, the police wants to prevent them from looking behind and trying to evade by pulling back.
    – Greg
    Jun 16 '20 at 12:00

Rather than "look forward", I would say that "tête en avant" means to look down by tilting your head forward. It could be seen as an abbreviation of "pencher la tête en avant".

This way, the suspect person being arrested is looking at the floor and therefore cannot see anything or plot an escape.

  • Trying to put myself in police shoes, I would then rather shout "tête baissée". But I agree that can also be the meaning (if a police officer had to shout to me "tête en avant", I am not sure what I would do spontaneously, tilt my head down or just keep my head straight...)
    – Greg
    Jun 16 '20 at 12:11
  • Personally I would definitely tilt it down but it might indeed be up for interpretation and I like your "tête baissée"... Not sure this ever happens outside TV shows though :D
    – Reyedy
    Jun 16 '20 at 12:29

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