Sir Robert Peel’s Nine Principles of Policing


One of the parties with whom I am engaging on the notion of citizen design of policing (I will leave it to them to identify themselves if they wish; I tend to be more courteous with my advocacy, in direct proportion to the extent of the courtesy with which I am likewise engaged!). Anyway, one of the parties directed me to the Nine Peelian Principles of Policing. I have much to catch up on!

They are:

PRINCIPLE 1 “The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.”

PRINCIPLE 2 “The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.”

PRINCIPLE 3 “Police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.”

PRINCIPLE 4 “The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.”

PRINCIPLE 5 “Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to the public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.”

PRINCIPLE 6 “Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.”

PRINCIPLE 7 “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

PRINCIPLE 8 “Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.”

PRINCIPLE 9 “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”

I don’t necessarily disagree with them. But I would add a 10th:

PRINCIPLE 10 “The measure of policing success is the degree to which a community is demonstrably at peace, both with itself and with its police force; not the extent to which either seeks to demonstrate a false peace.”

Or some such. There is still about Peelian Principles a whiff of the police being an authority unto themselves. I note Principle 7. But the mere enunciation of the fact that a police officer is a citizen is not the same as saying citizens have to be comfortable with their policing.

To be honest, I’m not totally sold on the notion of citizen design of policing. I am painfully aware of the full import of Principle 5. In line with earlier comments today, I know how easy it is for a small but vociferous group of individuals to overwhelm any democratic process. Which could class as ‘catering to public opinion.’

I am merely of the view at the moment that we need demonstrable satisfaction of the people with their policing. Which perhaps needs a little less ‘co-operation of’ and a tad more immediate ‘design by.’


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