Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour on Wednesday suggested criminals in high-rise housing estates are fighting alongside extremists in a "civilisational battle" pitting immigrants against traditional French culture.
Mr Zemmour, 63, who has often used the hundreds of people killed by terrorists in attacks in France since 2015 as political ammunition, told police officers they were "at the forefront of a civilisational battle that has spread out over our territory".
"There are two civilisations on our territory and they cannot co-exist peacefully," Mr Zemmour told a campaign event organised by the Alliance police union at a cinema in Paris.
"We need one civilisation to impose itself, and it's our own one."
He told the police officers attending that there was a "continuum between everyday delinquents" and terrorists.
"They're the same thing," Mr Zemmour said, expanding on theories in his books that religion, rather than poverty or alienation, spurs street crime in France's toughest neighbourhoods.
"You are attacked constantly because you represent the state and, as you represent the state, you represent France."
Mr Zemmour, who has three convictions for hate speech, is decried by anti-racism groups and political opponents for applying stigmas to people from Muslim backgrounds in France, who are thought to number more than five million.
He has claimed that white French people are being deliberately replaced with immigrants and that Islam is incompatible with French values.
Violence against and by the police has become a deeply divisive political issue in France.
There have been a host of cases in recent years in which officers have been attacked and killed, by Islamist extremists and common criminals.
Officers have also been caught on camera using excessive force against members of the public.
Mr Zemmour and others on the far-right and right deny the existence of police brutality.
Polls suggest Mr Zemmour, a former TV commentator and best-selling author, would win 13 per cent of the vote in the first round of April's election, putting him fourth.
Last month, a court convicted him again for racist hate speech over a televised tirade against unaccompanied child migrants in 2020.