Police science: science of the police or science for the police?

Conceptual clarification and taxonomy for comparing police systems

  • Sebastian Roché


In this essay the authors aims to investigate and clarify: what is the police, and what is or what shall police science be? Starting with a historical review of the conceptual development of the key terms, the author aims to progress the understanding of police (and police science in particular), by applying a strictly comparative, taxonomic perspective to the object of interest: police. By discarding attempts to discover the essential meaning of ‘police’ by start of definition, the author favours approximation through systematic comparison of the multifaceted manifestations of police organisations. Consistent with a methodological taxonomic approach, ‘police forms’, ‘morphologies’ and ‘ecosystems’ are introduced as central methodological notions. ‘Polity’, ‘doctrines’ and ‘accountabilities’ are further chief analytical tools, rather rooted in political than life sciences.
In the second part of the article, the proposed methodology is applied to a sample of six countries of diverse size and stark variations in the configuration of their innate police forms (France, India, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States).
Taking a consequent comparative-phenomenological position and looking at police forces as ‘organised life forms’ is certainly a path towards an advanced understanding of police forces and their actions.

How to Cite
Roché, S. (2017). Police science: science of the police or science for the police?. European Law Enforcement Research Bulletin, (2), 47-74. Retrieved from https://bulletin.cepol.europa.eu/index.php/bulletin/article/view/235