Global Policing and the Constabulary Ethic

  • James Sheptycki
  • Ben Bowling


This paper brides a gulf between the Enlightenment idea of a science of policing and contemporary police techno-science and asks questions about how such ideas can be brought into accord with notions of ‘good policing’. Policing has been central to the art of governance since the modern period began more than two hundred years ago. Policing under transnational conditions presents enormous challenges. The system of global governance is highly complex and this is especially evident with regard to the conceptual field of policing. Globally speaking, police legitimacy is projected through a functionalist rhetoric predicated on certain folkdevils and suitable enemies, to which strong police measures are said to be the only answer. The original science of police was deeply imbued with normative thinking, since it was concerned with notions of the general welfare of society and state. In present times, police science is being reduced to experimental criminology and crime science. This paper aims to affect thinking within the occupational world of policing by pointing to the idea of a Constabulary Ethic as an appropriate short-hand term for a broader normative standpoint for global policing. Empirical research is a necessary part of doing good police work, but it is not sufficient. Good science, like good governance, is possible only in an open society that fosters a dialogue that includes all its members. This essay aims to show the imperative of developing an ethical standpoint (called the Constabulary Ethic) for the system of subcultural meanings that inscribe the lifeworld of global policing.

How to Cite
Sheptycki, J., & Bowling, B. (2016). Global Policing and the Constabulary Ethic. European Law Enforcement Research Bulletin, (1), 9-23. Retrieved from