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Sûreté (French: [syʁte], "surety" but usually translated as "safety" or "security") is, in many French-speaking countries or regions, the organizational title of a civil police force, especially the detective branch thereof.
The former title of the French National Police was Sûreté nationale. It served initially as the criminal investigative bureau of the Préfecture de police de Paris (Paris Police Prefecture) and did not function as the national command and control organization until much later, by which time it no longer had any detectives on its staff.
The French Sûreté is considered a pioneer of all crime-fighting organizations in the world. Founded in 1812 by Eugène François Vidocq, who headed it until 1827, it was the inspiration for Scotland Yard, the FBI, and other departments of criminal investigation throughout the world. Vidocq was convinced that crime could not be controlled by then-current police methods, so he organized a special branch of the criminal division modelled on Napoleon's political police. The force was to work undercover and its early members consisted largely of reformed criminals. By 1820 – eight years after its formation – it had blossomed into a 30-man team of experts that had reduced the crime rate in Paris by 40%.
On 23 April 1941, the French police was nationalized under the Vichy regime, and each was placed under the prefect. The term Police nationale ("National Police") was then first used – with the sole exception of the Paris Police Prefecture. This organisational name was used during the Fourth and Fifth French Republic.
On 9 July 1964, the previously independent police in Paris were placed under the Sûreté nationale, and 10 July 1966 saw the final reorganization into the National Police in its present form.
Notable original members
- Eugène François Vidocq – founder and first chief
The Sûreté nationale are the city or urban police of Algeria.
The provincial police force of Québec is now called the Sûreté du Québec, even though Québec was British by the time the Sûreté was founded in France. The force's original English name was Quebec Provincial Police (French: Police Provinciale du Québec).
In popular culture
- In Graham Greene's The Quiet American from 1955, the character "Vigot" is a Sûreté inspector.
- Peter Sellers plays the bumbling Sûreté inspector "Jacques Clouseau" in the Pink Panther series of films.
- Louise Penny's Three Pines mystery novels feature "Chief Inspector Armand Gamache" of the Sûreté du Quebec.
- "Security" in French is sécurité. The sûreté was originally called Brigade de Sûreté ("Surety Brigade").
- The dictionary definition of sûreté at Wiktionary
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