Police: A Sociology of Knowledge Approach

Peter K. Manning, Jeffrey T Martin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The sociology of the police concerns the study of the institution of policing, its structure, function, and evolution. This focus requires a sociology of knowledge, a framework that highlights how social factors shape current knowledge of police. The concept of police is a contested one and often assumed without definition. Its functions are associated with governance in general and the executive function in particular. The public policing form assembled by Robert Peel, a visible, reactive force, is an assumed paradigm for much police research, but it is one of several types of policing, and contrasts with high policing concerned with national security. Internationally, broad types or 'families' of policing have emerged as a result of colonialism. Four specific types of police are common in Western democracies: private policing, pubic policing, hybrid policing, and outsourcing or paying organizations to carry out functions previously restricted to police agencies. Metaphors for studying policing, such as dramaturgy, the policing web, and nodal policing, highlight selected features of the policing function. Many external factors shape policing and the future role and function of the police, given new forms of crime, is unpredictable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Colonial policing
  • Dramaturgy
  • External factors shaping policing
  • High or political policing
  • Institutional families (comparative) of police
  • Metaphors of policing
  • Nodal policing
  • Police imagery
  • Sociology for and sociology of the police
  • The Peel paradigm of policing
  • The policing web
  • The role of the police
  • Types of policing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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