Trying to define a profession: the Police
ICS Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa Portugal, http://www.ics.ul.pt/instituto
Police professions are a challenge to sociological theories of professions. Firstly, because they are based upon a permanent tension between unity and plurality; secondly, and consequently, because they are very difficult to define. With examples from an ethnographic fieldwork inside the Portuguese urban police force, the aim of this essay is to develop the argument of Peter Manning. When considering policing practices, the author defends that the police?s mandate is an ?impossible? one. The police have staked out a vast and unmanageable social domain. And what has happened as a result of their inability to accomplish their self-proclaimed mandate is that the police have resorted to the manipulation of appearances. We can take even further Manning?s statement and argue that the police profession is impossible to define, due to the structural tension between unity and plurality, at least if we consider the sociological literature on these matters.