I was going to write a description of the various and sundry police forces in France, but it is WAY complicated. So I borrowed from Wikipedia and Google images to tell the story.
After I finished the article, I realized that their system is much like ours in terms of different agencies – but they are so much more complicated in terms of who can do what and who cannot.
But, then, if it wasn’t complicated, it wouldn’t be French!
PS – there will not be a test.
areas run under the Ministry of the Interior; its strength is roughly 150,000 agents. Note the coquettish lookfrom the guy on the right and the incredible muscles on the one in the white shirt.
- The National Police can strike
- They handle all questions about admittance and continuing stay of foreigners – that’s me!
- Large urban cities are under the jurisdiction of the National Police
▪ Gendarmerie Nationale, a gendarmerie; it has primary responsibility for smaller towns and rural areas, as well as all military installations; run by the Ministry of Defence but under operational control, for most purposes, of the Ministry of the Interior); its strength is roughly 100,000 agents. Cool uniforms, too.
- Gendarmes, because they oversee all matters regarding the military, cannot strike – this can be very important in France! However, the gendarmes found a workaround by forming associations of spouses of gendarmes. Vive la France!
- Suburban and rural areas are handled by the Gendarmerie
The existence of two national police forces has at times created friction or competition between the two. But why make it simple?
I guess you could compare them to the CIA and the FBI. Or maybe like the City Police and the Sherriff’s Office.
▪ Douane – Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects, (otherwise known as CUSTOMS!) a civilian customs service more commonly known as the Douane, under the Minister of Budget, Public Accounting and Civil Servants; its strength is roughly 20,000 agents. Decidedly un-sexy uniforms. You would think an agency that is responsible for dashing hopes of sneaky travelers would wear something a little spiffier. Or scarier.
These three agencies are the only ones legally capable of making full arrests or serving search warrants.
The ASVP or Agent de Surveillance de la Voie Publique are local, administrative police (police administrative): uniformed preventative patrols, traffic duties etc., with limited powers of arrest. Think Meter Maids.
These are the guys I perpetually wish for when I see someone parked in a cross walk or on a sidewalk. They are never there when I need them.
Now you know most of what there is to know about the French police. Kudos for getting through it all.
For those of you who cheated and just scrolled to the bottom, for shame.