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The Politics of the Police

The Politics of the Police (5th edn)

Benjamin Bowling, Robert Reiner, and James W E Sheptycki
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date: 29 January 2023

p. 31. Watching the watchers: Theory and research in policing studieslocked

p. 31. Watching the watchers: Theory and research in policing studieslocked

  • Benjamin Bowling, Benjamin BowlingProfessor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Kings College London
  • Robert ReinerRobert ReinerEmeritus Professor of Criminology, The London School of Economics and Political Science
  •  and James SheptyckiJames SheptyckiProfessor of Criminology, York University, Toronto, Canada


This chapter offers a broad introduction to the study of policing. It first outlines the concepts of police and policing, and the long-term evolution of these processes, with an emphasis on the idea of policing as an aspect of social control. There is discussion of the notion of the police as a body of people patrolling public places in blue uniforms, with a broad mandate of crime control, order maintenance, and some social service and specialist functions. The chapter then considers various sources of police research ranging from journalists and academic institutions to official government-related bodies, think-tanks, and pressure groups. It also looks at the development of police research. The concluding section offers an analysis of the vexed conceptual relationship between policing and politics.

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