Different types of Police

Today I saw a police car and, as they are as rare as hen’s teeth around here, I had a look and noticed it said Police Municipale on it. I’d not seen this before so thought I would Google it. This came up and I thought others might be interested in the information the article gives. I’m not sure the division of responsibilities is very clear or why there are so many different types of police.



We have a municipal policeman. He has a desk in the Mairie. The mayor sends him out to deal with complaints that the mairie receives - barking dogs, people not doing their recycling properly, anti-social behaviour, anything folks complain about that involves rule-breaking. Also public safety, once we had a flood warning and he went round checking that everyone in the danger zone was prepared and knew what to do in an emergency. And he seems to do a lot of paperwork too, he’s often at his desk.

All I know about the gendarmes is that they’re part of the military, they live in barracks and they usually look hard and scary and they never smile. And they nick you for speeding, and breathalyse you, and stuff like that. I don’t think Pascal, our policeman, does that sort of thing. He doesn’t look at all hard or scary and he smiles a lot. Actually he’s very dishy (do people still say dishy, I don’t think they do - I’m showing my age aren’t I).


Dishy!! Brilliant word. Haven’t heard that in a while. Now you mention it I remember there was a Municipal Policeman in our previous village who used to come and read the water meter for the Marie. It was very unnerving the first time he came as we thought we were in trouble! Bizarrely, he also drove the teeny tiny school bus.

I’ve been stopped once by the Gendarmes for a papers check. It was a very scary experience. Very stern and big guns.

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Civilian police are only used in towns over a certain size (50,000 maybe) the “paramilitary” gendarmes are used everywhere else.

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It doesn’t seem to be a straight either/or though. It’s always the gendarmes who set up speed traps or lurk at road junctions in town to catch people who don’t stop at stop signs, and who are brought in if there are serious problems, such as when the local yoof got a taste for starting fires. Equally I can’t see a gendarme doing the community/social liaison part of the policier municipal’s job, I guess the mayor or his adjoint or another of his team would do that?

We have neither Gendarmes nor Police… we are too tiny…

However, the Gendarmes pass through… visit the Mairie… even visit the School… that is their human side… They also carry out spot-checks on passing motorists using our crossroads… that is their cold and serious side.

3 years ago a house in our commune burned to the ground. I became involved and went to the Gendarmerie with the family, so they could make the official statement.

“Nan” a tiny lady in her late 80’s, was amazing…her first visit abroad, she was thrilled by the adventure of it all (or else still in shock)… whatever, she joked with the Gendarmes (who made a valiant effort to understand her)…asking if they were going to arrest her…
Gallantly, a huge Gendarme gently slipped the handcuffs on her wrists, then posed with her for a photo (taken by her son)… that photo now sits on her sideboard back in UK.

So… around here…we have perhaps the best of all… Gendarmes who will uphold the law (often in difficult circumstances) and yet, they will show their gentle side when deemed appropriate…


Having a military force to police a civilian population is asking for trouble and that is what we get.
They shot dead our neighbour whom they were supposed to be protecting.

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I’m not sure any town or village has its own gendarmes does it? As you say, they pass through.

Many small towns, like my own, have their own Gendarmes’ station/barracks but they cover a large mainly rural area. I’ve always thought of them as ‘ours’.

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That is the idea…the gendarmes are here to ‘control the population’. It’s a very different concept to UK. For example they never work in their home area but are deliberately posted elsewhere. And there are quite small gendarmerie, our local town of pop 2000 has one. Individually some may be perfectly reasonable people, but as an institution…

We also have a frog policeman. There is a police division associated with the office of chasse & nature sauvage, that we discovered when our frogs were rustled as they are a protected species. Turned up complete with impeccable uniform and a gun, and took it all very seriously which we appreciated.

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Even the fishing and environmental police have to carry their sidearm. A few years ago I went with a new British family and children to the local school for "inauguration " - the children were introduced to the chef gendarme, complete with gun, much to the horror of the parents.


Our nearest town (about 5k inhabitants) does have a Gendarmerie with about 30 Gendarmes. They cover quite a number of communes.

The town also has one Policeman… who is in evidence on Market Days and during other major happenings… no idea what he does other than that.

Your Frog man sounds like a member of the Louveterie de France. :grinning:

I see the police every day when i go to out local town, one even comes to the marie on a friday and so does one of the local Gendarmerie

Actually had the municipal police out on the 3rd as a drunk driver had caused soe destruction wrecked his car and was attempting to drive on it in t again. when i took his keys off him he said are you going to take me home then and said your getting a lift just not from me and he looked happy about that till the cops turned up. This was in tarbes and it was actually a copper from our local town that came he was covering in tarbes that night.

all in all a real good bunch.

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the Maréchal des Logis-Chef is actualyl quite low down in the ranks but probably the highest you wil lsee on the streets.

The Gendarmerie are actually classed as a paramilitary force, something i only found out about recently and it just means “armed men”

Grade (Rank)

Général d’Armée
(Army General)

Général de Corps d’Armée
(Corps General)

Général de Division
(Divisional General)

Général de Brigade
(Brigade General)

Officiers supérieurs (Senior Officers)

Grade (Rank)

(Lieutenant Colonel)

Chef d’Escadron
(Squadron Leader)


Officers Subalternes (Junior Officers)

Grade (Rank)


(Second Lieutenant)


Élève Officier
(Officer Cadet)

Sous-officers (Sub-Officers)

Grade (Rank)

(Chief Adjutant)
(Warrant Officer Class One)

(Warrant Officer Class Two)

Maréchal des Logis-Chef
(Chief Marshal of Lodgings)
(Staff Sergeant)


Gendarme sous contrat
(Junior Gendarme)

Élève Sous-officer
(Sub-Officer Cadet)

Militaire du Rang (Serviceman of the Rank)

Grade (Rank)
Gendarme Adjoint Maréchal-des-logis
(Deputy Gendarme Marshal of Lodgings)

Gendarme Adjoint Brigadier Chef
(Deputy Gendarme Chief-Brigadier)

Gendarme Adjoint Brigadier
(Deputy Gendarme Brigadier)
(Lance Corporal)

Gendarme Adjoint 1ère Classe
(Deputy Gendarme First Class)

Gendarme Adjoint
(Deputy Gendarme)

Good heavens Harry… that must be the longest post ever… couldn’t you have posted the “link”… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :grinning::grinning:

Actually took that from my kids notes on the computer. he wants to be a policeman or a gendarme so he has quite lot of info on them and can identify them all by their tags. hes been into 2 of the local stations for a tour. (nott that their is much to see)

He wanted us to buy the old gendarme in our village when they put it up for sale lol but alas they turned it into flats.

So many ranks means many chances for promotion by controlling us more effectively!
My french friends do not trust them and after my own experience when I became a victim, neither do I.


Good luck to your son. It can be a great career. :grinning:

Our local town (10 kms) has a gendarmerie but it’s only open on certain days ! Never can understand this, when there was a problem with hunters shooting too close to a friend’s house, ( 5 metres) it was their closed day. The call was routed to the nearest open gendarmerie (60kms) who said “it’s not worth us coming out as by the time we arrive it will be all over” !
Also they have one ot those intercoms on their gates, there was once a chap outside speaking into it that his car had been solen from the town square, the reply "we are not on duty you have to go to the nearest open one.
Do see them often though in full uniform buying their bread and shopping in the local supermarket, don’t know if they are on duty though :wink: