Admission to the OSCE: 25 June 1973
Policing overview: In France, the State is responsible for protecting persons and property, maintaining public order and enforcing the law. The French police consists of three centralized forces — two of which have the same mission but different jurisdictions at a national scope: National Police (Police Nationale) and National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) and Municipal Police (Police municipale) at a local scope.
2. Functions and missions
The role of the National Police is generally to ensure that the laws are observed and enforced. Efforts are also directed at the prevention of delinquency. In that context, the National Police:
3. Structure and organization
One of France’s two police presences is the National Police, a civil law enforcement agency with primary jurisdiction in cities and large towns with populations exceeding 16,000 inhabitants. It is under the authority of the Minister of the Interior (see organization chart in the Links section below). At the top of the police hierarchy is the General Directorate of the National Police, which oversees the following divisions:
5. Education / Training
Police personnel are recruited on the basis of competitive examination. Training is given in specialized schools. The officer’s rank often depends upon his/her educational level, whether secondary or post-secondary. Once selected, police recruits attend the Saint-Cyr School at Mont d'Or for ten months, while inspectors attend the Canet-Cluse School for six months and peace agents attend the Superior School for six months.
France has mechanisms of internal and external evaluation that ensure proper police conduct. Ethical police conduct is further enforced by the Code of National Police and related investigatory bodies.
2. Functions and mission
The French Gendarmerie is a military institution created to ensure public safety. It guarantees the protection of individuals and their properties, informs, warns and rescues. In addition to ensuring the maintenance of law and order and the enforcement of legislation, it may also contribute to the military defense of the nation.
Its missions include the policing of French countryside areas and small towns, usually with populations less than 20,000. Thus, although this comprises only 50% of the population, it is responsible for about 90% of the territory. This territorial Gendarmerie conducts crime investigations under the same laws and regulations as the members of the active Directorates of the National Police.
3. Structure and organization
The French Gendarmerie is an integral part of the armed forces. Thus, it falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense for administrative and organic purposes. While administratively part of the armed forces, it is operationally attached to the Ministry of the Interior for its missions within France, and criminal investigations are run under the supervision of prosecutors and judges.
The French Gendarmerie has two major units:
4. Staff data
Career gendarmes serve as either commissioned or non-commissioned officers. The lower ranks consist of auxiliary gendarmes on limited-time contracts. As of March 2005, the total staff comprised 104,275 personnel.
5. Education / Training
The Academy of National Gendarmerie Officers (Ecole des Officiers de la Gendarmerie Nationale or EOGN) is the officer’s training centre located in Melun which provides Officer’s basic training as well as retraining. After having been chosen through selective examination based on university standards, students must complete a two-year course (including Law, International Relations, Crime, Public Order, Human Resources Management, Relations with Medias, Human Rights, Foreign Languages, Crisis Management) in order to become a Gendarme Officer.
Non-commissioned officers are trained or retrained in one of the 6 academies that are to be found in the whole territory. The Gendarmerie promotion system offers large avenues for non-commissioned officers to become officers: At least 50% of the officers are former non-commissioned officers.
The Municipal Police is responsible for daily urban policing and covers all criminal and public order matters within its urban boundaries.
Approximately half of all municipal police officers are sworn agents and carry guns, while most of the other half are municipal agents. The total estimated number ranges between 10,000 and 30,000 officers with consensus around the figure of 20,000 officers.
1. General information
The French legal system abides by the principle of unity of the civil and criminal justice systems. The French Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) outlines police public order powers, as well as the powers of investigation. Criminal courts of first instance handle violations of the law listed in the Penal Code and are divided into three categories, depending on the nature and severity of the crime: first instance tribunals (petty offences and civil disputes), criminal tribunals (offences with possible punishment of up to 5 years of imprisonment and heavy civil disputes) and Assize courts.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office initiates criminal proceedings and then transfers cases to an examining magistrate. However, they supervise and control all police and gendarmerie investigations before such transfers. Once a case has been transferred and a judicial investigation begun, the police and gendarmerie officers act under the direct authority and supervision of the examining magistrate.
Last Updated: 15 April 2010