By Terry Baxter, Law Enforcement and Safety Specialist
In 1829, Sir Robert Peel established the London Metropolitan Police Force based at Scotland Yard. He became known as the “Father of Modern Policing.” Peel is believed to have contributed to the first set of instructions for law enforcement officers, emphasizing the importance of its civilian nature and policing consent. Today law enforcement is still being taught his nine principles and three core values of long ago which are commonly referred to as the Peelian Principles.
Peel’s Core Values
- The goal is preventing crime, not catching criminals. If police stop crime before it happens, we don’t have to punish citizens or suppress their rights. An effective police department doesn’t have high arrest stats; its community has low crime rates.
- The key to preventing crime is earning public support. Every community must share the responsibility of preventing crime, as if they were all volunteer members of the force. They will only accept this responsibility if the community supports and trusts the police.
- Police earn public support by respecting community principles. Winning public approval requires hard work to build reputation; enforcing the laws impartially, hiring officers who represent and understand community, and using force only as a last resort.
Peel’s Policing Principles
- To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
- To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviors, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
- To recognize always to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing cooperation of the public in the task of securing observation of laws.
- To recognize always that the extent to which cooperation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion of achieving police objectives.
- To seek and preserve public favor, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humor, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
- To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public cooperation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
- To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that give reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only member of the public who are paid to give fulltime attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interest of community welfare and existence.
- To recognize always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
- To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
I am sure that Peel could not have envision the challenges facing our law enforcement in today’s modern society, but the principles still remain and serve as the basic threshold for law enforcement agencies to follow. Culture of every law enforcement agency has changed, but the goal remains the same: “to serve and protect”.
There is a tense focus on law enforcement actions involving use of force, racial profiling and essential law enforcement tactics to name a few, but all law enforcement aggressive tasks have become subject of legal challenges, as spilt second decisions have the potential of tragic consequences.
No one should ever question whether this job is not dangerous or challenging, because we all know it is and should had known when we accepted the responsibility. Bottom line, promote effective law enforcement training and ensure everyone knows agency policies, when you don’t, it will come at a cost, usually in the form of civil litigation and public scrutiny.