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):