|Motto||Pour la Patrie, l'Honneur et le Droit|
(For the country, honor and law)
|Formed||16 February 1791|
|Employees||102,269 people (2018)|
|Volunteers||12,602 volunteers (2018)|
|Annual budget||€9.57 billion (2021)|
|Officers and NCOs|
|Civilian staffs||4,424 people (2018)|
|Parent agency||Ministry of the Interior|
The National Gendarmerie (French: Gendarmerie nationale, [ʒɑ̃daʁməʁi nɑsjɔnal]) is one of two national law enforcement forces of France, along with the National Police. The Gendarmerie is a branch of the French Armed Forces placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior, with additional duties from the Ministry of Armed Forces. Its responsibilities include policing smaller towns, suburbs and rural areas, along with special subdivisions like the GSPR. By contrast, the National Police is a civilian law enforcement agency that is in charge of policing cities and larger towns. Because of its military status, the Gendarmerie also fulfills a range of military and defence missions, including having a cybercrime division. The Gendarmerie has a strength of around 102,269 people (as of 2018).
The Gendarmerie is the heir of the Maréchaussée, the oldest police force in France, dating back to the Middle Ages. The Gendarmerie has influenced the culture and traditions of gendarmerie forces around the world, especially in independent countries from the former French colonial empire.
|French Armed Forces|
The Gendarmerie is the direct descendant of the Maréchaussée ("Marshalcy") of the ancien regime. The Maréchaussée lasted from medieval times until the French Revolution.
During the Middle Ages, there were two Grand Officers of the Kingdom of France with police responsibilities: The Marshal of France and the Constable of France. The military policing responsibilities of the Marshal of France were delegated to the Marshal's provost, whose force was known as the Marshalcy because its authority ultimately derived from the Marshal. The Marshalcy dates back to the Hundred Years' War, with some historians tracing it back to the early 12th century.
The second organisation, the Constabulary (Connétablie), was under the command of the Constable of France. The constabulary was regularised as a military body in 1337.
In 1415 the Maréchaussée fought in the Battle of Agincourt and their commander, the Prévôt des Maréchaux (Provost of the Marshals), Gallois de Fougières, was killed in battle. This history was rediscovered in 1934, and Gallois de Fougières was then officially recorded as the first known gendarme to have died in the line of duty. His remains are now buried under the monument to the gendarmerie in Versailles.
Under King Francis I (r. 1515–1547), the Maréchaussée was merged with the Constabulary. The resulting force was also known as the Maréchaussée, or, formally, the Constabulary and Marshalcy of France (connétablie et maréchaussée de France). Unlike the former constabulary, the new Maréchaussée was not a fully militarized force.
In 1720, the Maréchaussée was officially attached to the Household of the King (Maison du Roi), together with the gendarmerie of the time, which was not a police force at all, but a royal guard. During the eighteenth century, the marshalcy developed in two distinct areas: increasing numbers of Marshalcy Companies (compagnies de marechaussée), dispersed into small detachments, were stationed around the French countryside to maintain law and order, while specialist units provided security for royal and strategic sites such as palaces and the mint (e.g., the garde de la prévôté de l'hôtel du roi and the prévôté des monnaies de Paris.)
While its existence ensured the relative safety of French rural districts and roads, visitors from England, which had nothing but the not very effective parish constables, saw the Maréchaussée, with its armed and uniformed patrols, as royal soldiers with an oppressive role and so a symbol of foreign tyranny.  On the eve of the 1789 French Revolution, the Maréchaussée numbered 3,660 men divided into small brigades (a "brigade" in this context being a squad of ten to twenty men). Their limited numbers and scattered deployment rendered the Maréchaussée ineffective in controlling the "Great Fear" of July through August, 1789.
During the revolutionary period, the Maréchaussée commanders generally placed themselves under the local constitutional authorities. Despite their connection with the king, they were therefore perceived as a force favoring the reforms of the French National Assembly.
As a result, the Maréchaussée Royale was not disbanded but simply renamed as the gendarmerie nationale. Its personnel remained unchanged, and the functions of the force remained much as before. However, from this point, the gendarmerie, unlike the Maréchaussée, became a fully militarized force. During the revolutionary period, the main force responsible for policing was the National Guard. Although the Maréchaussée had been the main police force of the ancien regime, the gendarmerie was initially a full-time auxiliary to the National Guard militia.
In 1791 the newly named gendarmerie nationale was grouped into 28 divisions, each commanded by a colonel responsible for three départements. In turn, two companies of gendarmes under the command of captains were based in each department. This territorial basis of organisation continued throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Under Napoléon, the numbers and responsibilities of the gendarmerie—renamed gendarmerie impériale—were expanded significantly. In contrast to the mounted Maréchaussée, the gendarmerie were both horse and foot personnel; in 1800, these numbered approximately 10,500 of the former and 4,500 of the later, respectively.
In 1804 the first Inspector General of Gendarmerie was appointed and a general staff established—based out of the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré in Paris. Subsequently, special gendarmerie units were created within the Imperial Guard for combat duties in French occupied Spain.
Following the Second Restoration of 1815, the gendarmerie was reduced in numbers to about 18,000 and reorganised into departmental legions. Under King Louis Phillippe a "gendarmerie of Africa" was created for service in Algeria and during the Second Empire the Imperial Guard Gendarmerie Regiment was re-established. The majority of gendarmes continued in what was now the established role of the corps—serving in small, sedentary detachments as armed rural police. Under the Third Republic the ratio of foot to mounted gendarmes increased and the numbers directly incorporated in the French Army with a military police role reduced.
In 1901, the École des officiers de la gendarmerie nationale was established to train its officers.
Five battles are remembered on the flag of the Gendarmerie:
The National Gendarmerie is still sometimes referred to as the maréchaussée (being the old name for the service). The gendarmes are also occasionally called pandores, which is a slang term derived from an 18th-century Hungarian word for "frontier guards." The symbol of the gendarmerie is a stylized grenade, which is also worn by the Italian Carabinieri and the Grenadier Guards in Britain. The budget in 2008 was approximately 7.7 billion euros.
The equivalent Dutch force, Royal Marechaussee, uses officially the old French term--which King William I, when assuming power after the fall of Napoleon, considered preferable to "gendarmerie".
In French, the term "police" not only refers to the forces, but also to the general concept of "maintenance of law and order" (policing). The Gendarmerie's missions belong to three categories:
These missions include:
The Gendarmerie, while remaining part of the French armed forces, has been attached to the Ministry of the Interior since 2009. Criminal investigations are run under the supervision of prosecutors or investigating magistrates. Gendarmerie members generally operate in uniform, and, only occasionally, in plainclothes.
The Director-general of the Gendarmerie (DGGN) is appointed by the Council of Ministers, with the rank of Général d'Armée. The current Director-General is Général Christian Rodriguez who took office on November 1, 2019.
The Director-General organizes the operation of the Gendarmerie at two levels:
The Gendarmerie headquarters, called the Directorate-General of the National Gendarmerie (Direction générale de la Gendarmerie nationale (DGGN))), long located in downtown Paris, relocated in 2012 to the southern suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux.
The Directorate-General of the national gendarmerie includes:
The main components of the organization are Departmental Gendarmerie, Mobile Gendarmerie, Republican Guard, Overseas Gendarmerie, five specialized Gendarmerie branches, Provost Gendarmerie and Intervention Group of the National Gendarmerie. The above-mentioned organizations report directly to the Director General (DGGN) with the exception of the Republican Guard, which reports to the Île-de-France region.
Main article: Departmental Gendarmerie
The Departmental Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Départementale), also named «La Blanche»[note 1] (The White), is the most numerous part of the Gendarmerie, is in charge of policing small towns and rural areas. Its territorial divisions are based on the administrative divisions of France, particularly the departments from which the Departmental Gendarmerie derives its name. The Departmental Gendarmerie carries out the general public order duties in municipalities with a population of up to 20,000 citizens. When that limit is exceeded, the jurisdiction over the municipality is turned over to the National Police.
It is divided into 13 metropolitan regions[note 2] (including Corsica), themselves divided into groupements (one for each of the 100 département, thus the name), themselves divided into compagnies (one for each of the 342 arrondissements).
It maintains gendarmerie brigades throughout the rural parts of the territory. There are two kind of brigades:
In addition, it has specialised units:
In addition, the Gendarmerie runs a national criminal police institute (Institut de recherche criminelle de la gendarmerie nationale) specializing in supporting local units for difficult investigations.
The research units may be called into action by the judiciary even within cities (i.e. in the National Police's area of responsibility). As an example, the Paris research section of the Gendarmerie was in charge of the investigations 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' authorisation.
Main article: Mobile Gendarmerie
The Mobile Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Mobile), also named « La Jaune » (The Yellow), it is organized in seven Regions of the Mobile Gendarmerie (one for each of the seven military regions of metropolitan France, called (Zones de Défense). It comprises 18 Groupings (Groupements de Gendarmerie mobile) featuring 109 squadrons[note 3] for a total of approx. 11,300 personnel.
Its main responsibilities are:
Nearly 20% of the Mobile Gendarmerie squadrons are permanently deployed on a rotational basis in the French overseas territories. Other units deploy occasionally abroad alongside French troops engaged in military operations (called external operations or OPEX).
The civilian tasks of the mobile gendarmerie 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 Mobile Gendarmerie includes GBGM (Groupement Blindé de la Gendarmerie Nationale), an Armoured grouping composed of seven squadrons equipped with VXB armoured personnel carriers, better known in the Gendarmerie as VBRG (Véhicule Blindé à Roues de la Gendarmerie, "Gendarmerie armoured wheeled vehicle"). It is based at Versailles-Satory. The unit also specializes in CBRN defense.
Main article: Republican Guard
The Republican Guard is a ceremonial unit based in Paris. Their missions include:
The non-metropolitan branches include units serving in the French overseas départements and territories (such as the Gendarmerie of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon), staff at the disposal of independent States for technical co-operation, Germany, security guards in French embassies and consulates abroad.
Main article: Gendarmerie de l'Air
The Air Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie de l'Air) is 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 an accident involving military aircraft.
Main article: Maritime Gendarmerie
Placed under the dual supervision of the Gendarmerie and the Navy, its missions include:
Main article: Air Transport Gendarmerie
The Air Transport Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie des Transports Aériens) is placed under the dual supervision of the Gendarmerie and the direction of civilian aviation of the transportation ministry, its missions include:
The Ordnance Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie de l'Armement) fulfills police and security missions in the establishments of the Délégation Générale pour l'Armement (France's defence procurement agency).
The Nuclear ordnance security Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie de la sécurité des armements nucléaires, GSAN) was created in 1964. It is directly subordinated to the Ministry of Armed Forces and plays a major role in the security chain of the nuclear devices.
The main mission of this specific branch is to secure the government's control over all the nuclear forces and weapons. The security of the civil nuclear powerplants and research establishments is provided by specialized units of the Departmental Gendarmerie. More specifically, the gendarmes of this unit are responsible for ensuring the protection and the readiness of the different kinds of missiles used by the French Navy and Air Force.
In order to do so, the GSAN is composed of his own units and of units from other branches of the gendarmerie, temporary placed under its command like squadrons of the Mobile Gendarmerie to protect the convoys of nuclear weapons components. For instance, a special security platoon can be deployed on board of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to secure the nuclear weapons carried on the ship.
The Provost Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie prévôtale), created in 2013, is the military police of the French Army deployed outside metropolitan France. The functions of military police for the French Army on French soil are fulfilled by units of the Departmental Gendarmerie.
Main article: GIGN
GIGN (Groupe d'intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale) is one of the two premier Counter-terror formations of France. Its counterpart within the National Police is the RAID. Operatives from both formations make up the protective detail of the French President (the GSPR). Its missions include counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, surveillance of national threats, protection of government officials and targeting of organized crime.
GIGN was established in 1974 following the Munich massacre. Created initially as a relatively small police tactical unit specialized in sensitive hostage situations, it has since grown into a larger and more diversified force of nearly 400 members.[note 4]
Many of its missions are classified, and members are not allowed to be publicly photographed. Since its formation, GIGN has been involved in over 1,800 missions and rescued more than 600 hostages, making it one of the most experienced counter-terrorism units in the world. The unit came into prominence following its successful assault on a hijacked Air France flight at Marseille Marignane airport in December 1994.
Gendarmerie units have served in:
The uniform of the Gendarmerie has undergone many changes since the establishment of the corps. Throughout most of the 19th century a wide bicorne was worn with a dark blue coat or tunic. Trousers were light blue. White aiguillettes were a distinguishing feature. In 1905 the bicorne was replaced by a dark blue kepi with white braiding, which had increasingly been worn as a service headdress. A silver crested helmet with plume, modelled on that of the French cuirassiers, was adopted as a parade headdress until 1914. Following World War I a relatively simple uniform was adopted for the Gendarmerie, although traditional features such as the multiple-cord aiguillette and the dark blue/light blue colour combination were retained.
Since 2006 a more casual "relaxed uniform" has been authorised for ordinary duties (see photograph below). The kepi however continues in use for dress occasions. Special items of clothing and equipment are issued for the various functions required of the Gendarmerie. The cavalry and infantry of the Republican Guard retain historic ceremonial uniforms dating from the 19th century.
|NATO code||OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D)||Student officer|
|Rank title||Général d'armée||Général de corps d'armée||Général de division||Général de brigade||Colonel||Lieutenant-Colonel||Chef d'Escadron||Capitaine||Lieutenant||Sous-Lieutenant||Aspirant||Élève-officier|
|Departmental Gendarmerie||No equivalent||No equivalent|
|Air Transport Gendarmerie|
|Air Gendarmerie||No equivalent||No equivalent|
|Technical and Administrative Service||No equivalent|
|NATO code||OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D)||Student officer|
|Rank title||Major||Adjudant-chef||Adjudant||Maréchal des Logis-Chef||Gendarme||Gendarme sous contrat||Élève Sous-officer||Gendarme Adjoint Maréchal-des-logis||Gendarme Adjoint Brigadier Chef||Gendarme Adjoint Brigadier||Gendarme Adjoint première classe||Gendarme Adjoint|
|Departmental Gendarmerie||No equivalent|
|Air Transport Gendarmerie|
|Air Gendarmerie||No equivalent|
|Technical and Administrative Service||No equivalent|
As of 31 December 2018, the National Gendarmerie consisted of approx. 98,000 personnel units. Career gendarmes are either commissioned or non-commissioned officers. The lower ranks consist of auxiliary gendarmes on limited-time/term contracts. The 102,269 personnel of the National Gendarmerie is divided into:
This personnel mans the following units:
The Gendarmerie nationale's Prospective Centre (CPGN), which was created in 1998 by an ordinance of the Minister for Defence, is one of the gendarmerie's answers to officials' willingness to modernise the State. Under the direct authority of the general director of the gendarmerie, it is located in Penthièvre barracks on Avenue Delcassé in Paris and managed by Mr Frédéric LENICA, (assisted by a general secretary, Colonel LAPPRAND) "maître des requêtes" in the Conseil d'Etat.
The gendarmerie uses many different French cars, like Renault Megane and Peugeot Partner.
The Gendarmerie has used helicopters since 1954. They are part of the Gendarmerie air forces (Forces aériennes de la Gendarmerie or FAG—not to be confused with the Air Gendarmerie or the Air Transport Gendarmerie). FAG units are attached to each of the seven domestic "zonal" regions and six overseas COMGEND (Gendarmerie commands). They also operate for the benefit of the National Police which owns no helicopters (the Police also has access to Civil Security helicopters).
As of 2014[update], Gendarmerie air forces (FAG) operate a fleet of 56 machines belonging to three types and specialized in two basic missions: surveillance/intervention and rescue/intervention.
The Gendarmerie use as service pistol the Sig-Sauer SP 2022 - like almost all French law enforcement agencies.
Also in common use are:
This list is completed by less-lethal weapons like the LBD-40 (a 40mm plastic ball launcher), the Taser x26 and Pepper Spray.
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