Normal Police Work in Times of War: Really? The Case of Ille-et-Vilaine (Brittany, France)
Just as any other men of the same generation, civilian policemen in wartime France could theoretically be mobilised and drafted into regular armies. However, this would have meant leaving 90% of French territory without sufficient police numbers and in the care of much older—and probably less dynamic—officers. With various forms of special status, a large number of policemen were therefore allowed to continue their ‘normal work’—though it now involved a wide array of new assignments without any possible staff reinforcements, e.g. policing of foreigners and refugees, searches for deserters and escaped POWs, detection of spies and potential enemy collaborators, etc. Using the adverb “really” with a question mark in the title of this chapter focused on the département of Ille-et-Vilaine, the author’s intention is to examine the limits of any possible continuation of “normal work”. Was it actually possible to continue collaring petty thieves and common village drunks while the whole nation was engaged in military conflict on a massive scale? Where should efforts be concentrated when human and financial resources become this scarce?