DCAFProject › European Gendarmerie Forces: Mapping their Role in the New Security Environment

European Gendarmerie Forces: Mapping their Role in the New Security Environment

What is the rationale or added value of gendarmerie-type forces in the contemporary security environment? Two seemingly contradictory trends seem to characterize the development of gendarmerie forces in recent years. On the one hand, such forces have come to play an increasingly important role in numerous fields of policing, ranging from riot control to border enforcement and counterterrorism. This has resulted in considerable expansion of many of these forces over recent years, at a time when all Western European countries have downsized their military budgets and forces. On the other hand, however, there have also been trends in the opposite direction. As militarized police forces, gendarmerie-type forces have also come to be seen as increasingly anachronistic agencies and as being at odds with the principles of democratic policing. The fact that all countries which maintain gendarmerie forces also have civilian police forces (at the national level) has increasingly been seen as an unnecessary duplication and poor use of scarce resources. This has led to calls to “demilitarize” the gendarmerie and to enhance coordination – or even merge these agencies – with the civilian police, in the name of both greater efficiency as well as accountability.
The aim of this project is to assess these contradictory trends in the evolution of gendarmerie forces in Western Europe. The main focus is on France, Italy and Spain, which have the largest gendarmerie-type forces. The first part of the project provides a comparative mapping of the functions, structure, training, equipment, management and oversight of the gendarmerie forces of these countries. The second part focuses on current reform efforts.
Researcher: Derek Lutterbeck, Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies (MEDAC), University of Malta, serves as the principal investigator of this DCAF project.