Sûreté (French: [syʁte], "surety" but usually translated as "safety" or "security"[1]) is a term used in French-speaking countries or regions in the organizational title of a civil police force, especially the detective branch thereof.


The former title of the French National Police was La Sûreté Nationale. It served initially as the criminal investigative bureau of the Paris police 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.

Both the Prefecture of Police of Paris's own Brigade Criminelle and the Direction centrale de la police judiciaire trace their history directly to the Sûreté.


The Sûreté was 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%.

The Sûreté is considered a pioneer of all crime-fighting organizations in the world.

On 23 April 1941, the French police was nationalized under the Vichy regime and each was placed under the prefect, the term National Police was then first used. The sole exception was the Prefecture of Police of Paris.

This organisational name was used during the Fourth and Fifth French Republic.

Sûreté Nationale

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


The Sûreté Nationale are the city 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).


The Sûreté is the name of the detective branch of the cantonal police of the French-speaking cantons of Switzerland.

In popular culture

  • Gerhard Feix: Das große Ohr von Paris - Fälle der Sûreté. Berlin, 1975.
  • Graham Greene: The Quiet American. 1955.
  • Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the Pink Panther series of films.

See also


  1. ^ Security in French is Sécurité, It was originally called Brigade de Sûreté (Surety Brigade)

External links

  • The dictionary definition of sûreté at Wiktionary