The French society : institutions, etc... (#5)
  • French police
  • More to come (page under construction)

See also :

The various forms of French cops....    

Not only France has more cops than most other countries (1 for 265 inhabitants (1 for 119 in Paris), compared to 1 for 380 in UK, 1 for 296 in Germany) but they belong to many different species. To name but a few :

  • the cops in blue uniform you see in the streets of Paris are “Police Nationale” : civil servants reporting to the Prefect i.e. to the Minister of Interior
  • in smaller cities, there can be either "Police Nationale" or “Police Municipale” (hired by the city and reporting to the Mayor)
  • outside Paris, beware of the “Gendarmerie Nationale” : the “gendarmes” are highly respected (and feared), they belong to the Army and report to the Minister of Defense ; they live in small brigades, scattered all over the country, including overseas territories, and are re-assigned to a different place every few years
  • in case of a "soft" demonstration, the anti-riot squad will be the “CRS” (Compagnie Républicaine de Sécurité) who are civil servants or, if it’s a tough case, the “Gendarmes Mobiles” : you can joke with a CRS (he will only knock you on your head) but don’t joke with a Gendarme Mobile !
  • for State security, the “DST” (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire) now DGSI is roughly the equivalent of the FBI
  • the elite GIGN (for the gendarmerie) and RAID (for the police) are very popular and they are the valiant units who attack the terrorists and liberate the hostages.

Useful tips :

  • for “everyday police” (for instance reporting a theft or a burglary), you go to the “Commissariat de Police” (in towns) or to the “Gendarmerie” (in the country) to make a formal declaration ; if you want to declare something formally, but without starting a case, there is the “main courante” which is a simple register in which you write whatever you think you might be able to refer to in the future (your neighbor made too much noise : if you sue him six months from now, you can establish that he was already noisy six months before or if he says he’ll kill you, your heirs will have proof that he did threaten you!)
  • when speaking to a cop (in uniform) you say “Monsieur l’Agent" (and not : "officer")
  • the nicknames for "cop" in French are "flic" (pronounced fleek) or "poulet" (chicken) : dont use them!
  • In France, the police can keep you in custody for 24 hours (extendable to 48) to investigate a case in which the police think you might be involved. It is the "garde à vue" : more in irksome France.
  • Entrapment is illegal! Contrary to the USA, French legislation prohibits all forms of provocation from police (like offering a bribe or a policewoman pretending to be a prostitute) : any indictment grounded on it would be illegal. There are only (very few) exceptions for custom officers.
  • To call the Police, dial 17
  • Read why there are so many cops in the streets of Paris.
  • more to come.....

Page still under construction....

To related pages : more about French society(#1), religion(#2), women in French society (#3), French profiles(#4), French attitudes, French values,French issues, etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books:

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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