Robert Peel laid down the following principles for an ethical police force:
- The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
- The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.
- Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
- The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
- Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
- 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.
- 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 upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
- Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
- The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
Further to these principles, every policeman in his force had to wear a number badge so that his actions would be accountable.
My idea is to restore these principles to the very core of police training. Our policemen and women should live and breathe these ideals.
Why does this idea matter?
The idea is important for the following reasons:
1) Robert Peel was correct! You do need to have an ethical, accountable police force, with a clear function, and a humble, mutually respectful existence with the public.
2) Our current police officers are not being trained in this way. They are taught to think of themselves as a "service", and us as the "customers". They are not trained to think of us as equal partners in the fight against criminality. We receive the "marketing message", we receive the "service", but we are not part of its provision.
3) The result is that they are agents of a power other than the public. Normally they answer to their superiors, many of whom are perilously close to being politicians. Sometimes, they answer to the state – for example, when they are mobilised by their thousands to close down protests… who is looking after their community duties then?
In the end, I think most of us find the "service" rather patronising and dismissive of our daily concerns … and that surely cannot be right.
We are the police, and the police are us – bring back the Peelian Principles!