French Gendarmerie

From Academic Kids

fr:Gendarmerie nationale de:Gendarmerie Nationale

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Gendarmes guarding the Paris Hall of Justice
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Gendarmerie motorcyclists police the roads and autoroutes of rural France.

In France, the Gendarmerie Nationale is the national military police force. Its missions include:

  • The policing of countryside areas and of small towns, usually populations under 10000, outside of the jurisdiction of the French National Police.
  • Criminal investigations under judiciary supervision.
  • Crowd control and other security activities.
  • The security of airports and military installations, as well as all investigations relating to the military, including in foreign interventions.
  • Participations in ceremonies involving foreign heads of states or heads of governments.

See gendarmerie for similar forces in other countries.

While administratively a part of the armed forces, thus under the aegis of the Ministry of Defense, it is operationally attached to the Ministry of the Interior for its missions within France, and criminal investigations are run under the supervision of judges. Its members operate in uniform and exceptionally in plainclothes.

Career gendarmes are either commissioned or non-commissioned officers. The lower ranks consist in auxiliary gendarmes on limited-time contracts.

The officer school of the Gendarmerie Nationale is located in Melun.

The Gendarmerie Nationale is divided into the gendarmerie départementale and the gendarmerie mobile.


The Gendarmerie Départementale

The Gendarmerie Départementale conducts local policing functions throughout the French territory. Its uniforms are blue.

It is divided into regions (headed by a general, one for each defense zone), themselves divided into legions (headed by a colonel, one for each administrative region), themselves divided into groupements (one for each département, thus the name), themselves divided into compagnies (one for each arrondissement).

It maintains gendarmerie stations throughout the rural parts of the territory. In addition, it has specialized units:

  • Research units, who conduct criminal investigations when their difficulty exceeds the abilities of the territorial units;
  • Surveillance and intervention units reinforce gendarmerie forces in areas of high delinquency;
  • Units for prevention of juvenile delinquency;
  • Highway patrols
  • Mountain units, specialized in search and rescue operations, surveillance and inquiries in mountaineous areas.

In addition, the Gendarmerie has an institute (Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale) specializing in the investigation of crimes by scientific and technological means.

Note that the research units may be called into action by the judiciary even within cities. As an example, the Paris research section of the Gendarmerie was in charge of the enquiries into the vote-rigging allegations in the 5th district of Paris (see corruption scandals in the Paris region).

Gendarmes normally operate in uniform. They may operate in plainclothes only for specific missions and with their supervisors' authorization.

The Gendarmerie Mobile

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The Gendarmerie Mobile doing riot control
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Some gendarmes mobiles equipped with shields, FAMAS and gas mask.
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A training assault of GSIGN on a TGV train.

It is divided into legions, similarly as the Gendarmerie Départementale. Its uniforms are black.

Its main responsibilities are

  • crowd and riot control
  • security of public buildings
  • all policing tasks that require large amounts of personnel (Vigipirate counterterrorism patrols, searches in the countryside...).

It has specialized units:

  • the group of security of intervention of the Gendarmerie Nationale (GSIGN), consisting of:
    • the intervention group of the Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN), an elite counterterrorism and hostage rescue unit,
    • the parachutist squadron of the Gendarmerie Nationale (EPIGN),
    • a detachment to the security group of the President of the Republic, whose responsibility is to ensure the safety of the President and of its family and guests.

In addition, it has armored units:

Such units may intervene abroad in varied cases such as a hostage crisis or the support of peacekeeping operations.

The tasks of the gendarmes mobiles tasks are similar to those of the police units known as Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS), for which they are often mistaken. Easy ways to distinguish them include:

  • the uniform of the CRS is blue, the gendarmes mobiles are clad in black;
  • the CRS wear a big red CRS patch; the gendarmes have stylicized grenades.

Special divisions

Gendarmerie Maritime

Placed under the dual supervision of the Gendarmerie and the Navy, its missions include:

  • police and security in the naval bases;
  • maritime surveillance;
  • police at sea;
  • assistance and rescue at sea.

Gendarmerie des Transports Aériens

Placed under the dual supervision of the Gendarmerie and the direction of civilian aviation of the transportation ministry, its missions include:

  • police and security in civilian airfields and airports;
  • filtering access to aircraft, counter-terrorism and counter-narcotic activities, freight surveillance;
  • surveillance of technical installations of the airports (control tower...);
  • traffic control on the roads within the airports;
  • protection of important visitors stopping for a layover;
  • judiciary inquiries pertaining to accidents of civilian aircraft.

Gendarmerie de l'Air

Placed under the dual supervision of the Gendarmerie and the Air Force, it fulfills police and security missions in the air bases, and goes on the site of accident of military aircraft.

Gendarmerie de l'Armement

It fulfills police and security missions in the establishments of the Délégation Générale de l'Armement (defense procurement agency).

Republican Guard

Main article: French Republican Guard

The Garde Républicaine, is a ceremonial unit based in Paris, whose main mission is to guard official buildings and perform honor services.

External links

See also


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