In the United States, when metropolitan police encounter a violent situation that is a little “too rich for their blood,” Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams may be called upon to neutralize a threat. We readily recognize their profile: black uniforms and kit, black vehicles, armed to the teeth, and an aggressive demeanor. Should a hostage situation present itself, perhaps then it is a job for the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Teams (HRT).

I won’t pulverize the organizations or jurisdictional job responsibilities any further than that—just a cursory mention to draw attention to the French version of our U.S. law enforcement. My focus is on the recent torrent of terror in Paris, France.

Three Parisian units were called in to respond to the attackers: BRI, GIGN, and RAID. BRI and RAID are urban police units that fall under the French Ministry of the Interior (Ministere de l’Interieur). GIGN falls under the national Gendarmerie, or essentially the National Guard. BRI focuses on counterterrorism exclusive to Paris, RAID’s charter is counterterrorism on a national scale, and GIGN’s mission is worldwide counterterrorism.

The Brigade de Recherche et d’Intervention (BRI)

I present first the BRI, the Brigade de Recherche et d’Intervention, or Research and Intervention Brigade (RIB, ha ha). Their most likely American counterpart is a municipal Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team. BRI is bestowed with powers of intervention and general authority as police officers. That means they have authority within their charter to invade with force the scene of a kidnapping or hostage rescue, and they have arrest authority. Powers under their charter include (but are unlikely limited to):

  • Resolution of hostage situations by peaceful or belligerent means
  • Armed intervention
  • Surveillance and stakeout operations
  • Anti-gang operations
  • Response to felony offenses
  • Maintaining criminal archives

BRI can work in conjunction with RAID in joint operations where mutual assistance is desired. BRI participation was invoked in response to the attack on the Parisian Charlie Hebdo periodical office, as were RAID and the vaunted GIGN. It is noteworthy to reiterate that BRI is exclusive to Paris, and remains solely within the Paris city limits.

Since I brought up the subject, I have been asked on more than just one occasion what Hebdo means. Clearly it is not a French word, so what is the origin? I can divulge that Hebdo is in fact a truncated form of the French word Hebdomidaire, which means ‘weekly’—mystery solved!


Recherche, Assistance, Intervention, Dissuasion (RAID)

France fancies RAID its primary national counterterrorist force, endowing it with a hefty arsenal of weapons and capabilities. Recent responses by RAID include the Charlie Hebdo assault and the Bataclan Theater massacres in Paris, France, this very year.