Gendarmerie (also Bundesgendarmerie, rural police), armed body of policemen in uniform serving the maintenance of law and order and public security; founded in Austria in 1849 after the French model, established as the executive organ for the courts, public prosecutors and provincial and district administrative authorities throughout the Empire by Johann Kempen von Fichtenstamm. At first part of the Armed Forces and thus subject to military law; reorganized in 1876 (new law passed 1894), service instructions (Gendarmerie-Dienstinstruktion, GDI) compiled in 1895; after World War I new organization of the rural police corps by the rural police law (Gendarmerie-Gesetz) of 1918, granting members the status of civil servants and putting them under ordinary jurisdiction. The G. has always had merely executive functions and never had any authoritative or decision-making power. Re-established after World War II, the G. served as a model for the reorganization of the Bulgarian and Turkish police, and had influenced the organization of the Chinese police in the1930s.
The G. is placed under the authority of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (ministry department: Directorate-General for Public Security). The general headquarters of the G. in Vienna (Gendarmerie-Zentralkommando) rank highest in the hierarchy, followed by eight provincial headquarters (Landesgendarmeriekommanden), with one in every province, except Vienna, the Bezirksgendarmeriekommanden (district level) and the Gendarmerie-Posten (local level). The provincial headquarters have special departments for certain tasks: Stabsabteilung (staff department), Kriminalabteilung (criminal department), Technische Abteilung (technology department), ökonomisch-administrative Abteilung (economic and administrative department), Schulabteilung (training department). Education and training of the G., as provided under the respective regulation of 1987, takes place at the G.-Zentralschule, which has existed in Mödling since 1935 (in Graz since 1930). During the occupation of Austria 1945-1955 the allies tolerated the training of cadre personnel ("B-Gendarmerie") for the new Armed Forces in "G.-Schulen" (police academies) in the western provinces.
After the introduction of radio patrols and emergency calls (phone no. 133) in 1965, emphasis was laid on reforming the institutions for crime control and prevention: special units were set up (to fight terrorism, drug dealing etc.), existing offices and services were expanded (criminal matters, photographic service, road traffic, lakes, rivers, aviation, police dogs). The Alpine police has become more important due to expansion of tourism. New fields of activity are radiation protection and environmental offences. The 1990s saw organizational changes (merging of small posts and new organization of local, district and provincial headquarters) and changes in the execution of duties in order to permanently be at the disposal of the population. Since the Schengen Agreement came into effect in 1995 the G. has been in charge of conducting EU border patrol supervision. Within the framework of international organisations (UN, OSCE, EU, WEU) about 750 members of the G. and the police have participated in unarmed security operations abroad, ensuring the realization of human rights, supervising free and fair elections and participating in the training of police forces.
Literature: L. Kepler (ed.), Die Gendarmerie in Österreich. 1849-1974, 1974; R. Thienel, Die Aufgaben der Bundesgendarmerie, 1986.