Police as Life World. An Ethnography of Police-Officers' Identity


  • Rafael Behr Universität Frankfurt




cop culture, ethnography, life world studies, masculinities, police, police culture, police research, subculture studies


The purpose of this paper is to present some findings and problems which I encountered during my ethnography work on several German police units conducted in 1995. Participant observation is not original, but nevertheless unusual for a study of police work. To understand the behavior and the thinking of police officers, one must regard their exclusive possession of power and their discretion for using it. The power of the police is different to the power of suspects or other individuals: Police-power is part of the monopolized state-force, the action of suspects against the police is seen as violence or obstruction. The tensions following this difference are both subject and background of stories and actions of police officers, especially for those "on the beat" (also called "street cops"). The ethnography of police-work refers to the narrations of street cops and the observation of their attitudes for "managing the job". I argue, that in contrast to the official "police culture", it can also be referred to it as "cop culture". Cop culture is significantly connected with "doing masculinity". URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0201134


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Author Biography

Rafael Behr, Universität Frankfurt

Rafael BEHR ist Soziologe und arbeitet am Institut für Sozialpädagogik und Erwachsenenbildung der Johann Wolfgang Goethe- Universität in Frankfurt am Main.



How to Cite

Behr, R. (2002). Police as Life World. An Ethnography of Police-Officers’ Identity. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-3.1.877