Perhaps no other man has had more influence on modern police than Sir Robert Peel. As the founder of the London Metropolitan Police in 1829, Sir Robert Peel created police forces as we today know them. Thanks largely to Peel, law and order has a firm foundation.
To be sure, police did exist prior to the formation of the LMP. In the city of Boston, USA, the city watch began as a combined tool to both thwart the efforts of the less-than-civic minded persons from committing criminal acts and as a means of alerting the population should a fire break out in the all-wooden town. Similar structures were already in place in New York City and other locations in both America and Europe. But Sir Robert Peel organized the London Metro Police in a way that no one had before. In fact, by 1845 New York City adopted his principles when establishing its first official police force and cities throughout America did so in short order thereafter.
The Two Key Contributions to Modern Police by Sir Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel introduced two concepts which would alter the idea of policing forever. Lest we forget, the Revolutionary War was fought in part because of the English tactic of using military forces to control the populations. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence directly argues that one grievance against the King was that he was ‘stationing soldiers among us.’ And in the Bill of Rights, the military is thus forbidden to be used against the citizenry. Sir Robert Peel understood this conflict and merged the notion of using soldiers with the idea that a Democratic people should be protected against abuse of such power.
What do you think? Are Sir Robert Peel’s Principles of policing useful today? Join the Discussion here.
The first thing Sir Robert Peel introduced was a peace-keeping force which would have a quasi-military structure. He wisely understood that order and discipline would be needed to properly run such an organization, so he modeled the London Metropolitan Police after military lines, including uniforms, ranks, and chains of command.
However, it was the second concept Sir Robert Peel introduced that would fundamentally mold modern police for the good. In order to create a professional peace-keeping force, Sir Robert Peel developed a set of guiding principles which, when applied, would ensure that police anywhere would be successful in their mission. The extent to which police applied these principles would determine their rate of success in his opinion. Let us then look at the principles of Law Enforcement as developed by Sir Robert Peel and adopted by police agencies the world over ever since.
Sir Robert Peel’s Principles of Law Enforcement
Following are the principles of law enforcement as Sir Robert Peel envisioned police agencies should adopt. There are nine principles of law enforcement which were adopted by the London Metropolitan Police under the command of Sir Robert Peel. These are paraphrased in simpler, modern language without losing the meaning. If you would like to read the 9 principles of policing as Sir Robert Peel stated them, click here.
1. The Mission of police should be to prevent crime rather than suppress and punish crime.
2. To be successful in this mission, police need public support, respect, and approval.
3. Police must obtain the willful cooperation of the law-abiding public.
4. The more police are able to secure this cooperation, the less force and coercion will be needed.
5. Impartial, politically neutral police who do not judge laws while practicing racial and social impartiality, courtesy, and a good nature along with befriending and protecting the public will win public support…In other words, be the good guys.
6. Physical force should ONLY be used as a last resort and then the minimum force necessary to accomplish an objective.
7. Police need to have a relationship with the public that demonstrates clearly that they too are citizens and are doing a job which is in the interest of the community.
8. Police need to remember their place at all times—they are not judges nor law-makers, but enforcers and protectors.
9. To determine whether police are efficient simply measure the degree of crime in a society.
Sir Robert Peel’s Principles of Order
As can be seen from the principles developed by Sir Robert Peel and put into use by the London Metropolitan police, the foundation of policing as he envisioned the job, would be for law enforcement officers to be first and foremost, peace-keepers. The principles were developed to remind police of the need to keep order in society. These principles would guide the LMP to be professional and beyond reproach—friends of the public, not public enemies.
The public in turn would willfully obey and assist the police when needed. Indeed, this is the way policing should function. However, many today complain that police where they live do not act in this way. In fact, the Daily Telegraph in 2005 posited this very idea and suggested that police should “attend” these principles. In many communities, especially in American inner cities, police and the public have a combative relationship. This is not what Sir Robert Peel envisioned. This brings up several questions then…
- Are the Principles of Sir Robert Peel still useful to police today?
- Could applying the Principles of Sir Robert Peel help police and communities reconnect?
- If Peel’s principles are so useful for police, why are they not being applied more evenly throughout forces?
- How did the combative nature of police vs public develop and what can be done to turn it around?
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