This chapter provides an overview of the history of the municipal police in France through the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period. It shows how the Revolution accentuated the construction of an urban hierarchy in France based on population, but also influenced by urban functions (such as market towns and administrative centers), and how this influenced the establishment of commissaires de police in municipalities with at least 5,000 inhabitants (and in some special cases, fewer). It also describes conditions of work, the question of whether it was best to have someone from the town or an “outsider” as a policeman, and the role of agents — police assistants — and secret agents (mouchards), as well as, in larger cities, the nomination of senior commissaires centrals.
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