A tour of the PJGN, the French gendarmerie’s judicial arm

The PJGN is the French acronym for a little known service, the judicial arm of the French gendarmerie which has a 27,000m² state-of-the-art home in brand new buildings (opened just a year ago) in Cergy Pontoise, in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris. Founded in 2011 by merging the IRCGN, the gendarmerie’s criminal research institute (Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale) and the central criminal intelligence service (STRJD), the PJGN opened its doors on 18 May to FOB, and other journalists, in the framework of a press trip organised by the GICAT, the French land defence and security industries’ federation.

Les locaux flambant neufs du PJGN

The PJGN’s state-of-the-art new home

 

 

Le général de brigade François Daoust. Crédit photo: Christina Mackenzie

General François Daoust. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie

The PJGN, directed by General François Daoust, employs 560 military and civilian staff, of whom almost 300 are scientists. It has seven functions:

  • A multi-disciplinary scientific laboratory (IRCGN) which covers around 40 areas of expertise from ballistics to computer science, from explosives to microanalysis, from toxicology to entomology.
  • A central service of criminal intelligence in charge of managing a national data base and centralising and analysing judicial intelligence (SCRC).
  • A centre for fighting cybercrime (C3N).
  • A central observatory for intelligent transport systems and connected objects (OCSTI).
  • Handling the forensics, cyber and intelligence chains with the SDPJ.
  • A capacity to deploy technical and scientific police and specialised judicial experts (criminal analysts, behavioural analysts, computer analysts).
  • A forensics and criminal intelligence research and applied teaching centre.

Colonel Patrick Touran, director of the IRCGN, is in charge of ensuring that the institution can handle the mission it has been assigned. It must be able to handle 600 victims, the equivalent of a full A380 aircraft, and be able to deploy anywhere in the world within two hours. Its equipment must be air transportable, its staff trained to gather information post-mortem (PM, acquired by examining corpses) and ante-mortem (AM, obtained from family members), as well as dealing sensitively with victims’ loved ones. The IRCGN must also, amongst other things, be able to undertake DNA analyses and dental X-rays on site. This work is undertaken by the national unit for the identification of victims of catastrophes (UGIVC, an integral part of the IRCGN) about which you can find out everything in this article (in French only I’m afraid). An air transportable vehicle (such as a Renault Master) that contains all the equipment necessary to undertake this mission has been developed and will be visible on the gendarmerie’s stand at Eurosatory.

The IRCGN gets 500 new cases per day, has to sequence 10,000 DNA samples per month, and has at least one team out in the field every day. The cases it handles are those that could not be handled by the local criminal investigator (TICP) who gathers and keeps evidence for basic offences, nor, for more serious offences, by the departmental level criminal investigation technician (TIC), the N’tech (a gendarme specialised in new technologies) and coordinator of forensic operations. The IRCGN handles cases that require scientific expertise at a national level. All sorts of scientists work there.

In the physics-chemistry forensic division work experts in : ballistics; micro-analysis ; fires, explosives, environment ; toxicology.

In the digital engineering forensic division one finds experts in: computing, electronics; signals, images, speech ; documents ; vehicles (it is the only such centre in Europe).

In the human identification (or living) forensic division there are experts in: fingerprinting, blood cell morphology, anthropology, forensic medicine, dentistry, flora and fauna, forensics.

Deux anthropologues dans leur laboratoire d'identification humaine

Two anthropologists in their laboratory for human identification. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie

In the human genetics biology forensics division is found the biology department and three central services where scientists undertake the genetic analysis of individuals and traces, and keep biological samples.

The PJGN also has a rather special “library”. More than 10,000 firearms are stocked there, the oldest of which dates back to 1720 and the strangest of which is a home-made weapon used by its maker to commit suicide. Also kept there are two million munitions used by the gendarmes to identify those found on crime scenes.

Une des nombreuses rangée d'armes à feu dans la "bibliothèque". Crédit photo: Christina Mackenzie

One of the many rows of firearms in the “library”. Photo credit: Christina Mackenzie