Styles of policing are reflected in the methods, decisions and priorities of law enforcement agencies. Based on an ethnographic study of police work in two major French metropolitan areas, this article identifies the styles of policing enforced in France, based on the use of discretionary stop-and-search. Despite nuances due to the variety of units, places and watch commanders, policing is delivered in a mostly proactive and confrontational way, which is reflected in a proliferation of units having an aggressive mandate. Stop-and-search is used to detect criminal activity, ‘take over’ territories and assert police authority, especially when the latter is challenged.