The history of Danish gendarmerie forces

Rasmus Dahlberg and Henrik Stevnsborg have an interesting look at the history of Danish gendarmerie forces in Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies:

Since 1952, Denmark has had no border gendarmes, and since 1894, gendarmes have not patrolled the territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. The ghost of the gendarmes, however, has kept on haunting Danish police history.
In November 2019, the Secretary General of the Danish Atlantic Council, Lars Bangert Struwe (2019), advocated for the establishment of a Danish gendarmerie force. He referred to the fact that since 2015 the Home Guard (which is part of the Armed Forces), as a means to curb the migration flow, has assisted the police in protecting the Danish-German border. He likewise referred to the fact that due to the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen in February 2015 armed soldiers have since 2016 under Operation Gefion provided support to the police, particularly in guarding critical infrastructures, terror-threatened persons, and selected institutions, such as Jewish locations in Copenhagen. Struwe (2019) pointed out that the present situation is unsustainable and, echoing the reflections of the 19th century on the establishment of a gendarmerie, he underlined that making soldiers a mundane feature in the streetscape tends to exhaust the resources of the Armed Forces and to divert their focus from their core duties. Gendarmes, he argued, would be the answer as “something between the police and the Armed Forces.”

It is highly unlikely, though, that these suggestions will ever be followed. As evident from our review above, the border gendarmes in a Danish context only made sense as long as Germany posed a military threat to Denmark. This is no longer the case, and today the Danish-German border is an internal EU frontier, managed under the Schengen Regime.

The arguments against setting up a gendarmerie force in Denmark are moreover multifarious. The question of economy has, as we have shown, been a recurring theme in the history of Danish gendarmeries and a decisive factor in not establishing such a force. A gendarmerie was, and still is, very costly. In addition, Denmark is not in a political situation tantamount to the one that existed in the times of the Blue Gendarmes. Unlike, for instance Mexico, Denmark is not facing an extreme constitutional crisis, verging on civil war, which might give reason for setting up a militarized force to supplement – or replace – the civil police. Such a move would invariably signal that the fundamentally stable political system, which has existed in Denmark since 1894, was endangered – which is not the case.

I’m with Dahlberg and Stevnsborg on this: The last thing we need is another government agency to fight over the limited resources. But there is always something fascinating about two schools of historians arguing about current affairs.

Also in the article is this all too relevant reference to Danish legislation from 1885:

Provisional amendments were furthermore made to the Criminal Code, including a section which read: “Whoever publicly expresses or disseminates fake news or distorted facts in order to incur hatred or contempt for the institutions of the state or for the government’s measures, will be punished with imprisonment”




Leave a Reply