In 1901, W.L. Melville Lee wrote a wonderful book titled, A History of Police in England. What made this such a wonderful book was that within its pages, Lee preserved for future generations in exact language the 9 Principles of Policing as created by Sir Robert Peel.
Sir Robert Peel adopted these nine principles because he believed that although society had a need to police itself, the use of soldiers was not a good idea in a Democratic society. Although he recognized the need for a police agency to use the ranks, uniforms, and chain of command of the military, he felt that there needed to be a very different set of guiding principles…in other words, police would have a different mission from soldiers.
Thus, Sir Robert Peel developed nine principles which have endured into our age and form the foundation for modern police everywhere. Following are the nine principles of policing as developed by Sir Robert Peel and adopted by the first modern police force, the London Metropolitan Police, in 1829.
“1: The basic mission for which police exist is to prevent crime and disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force and severity of legal punishment.
“2: The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behavior and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect.
“3: The police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain public respect.
“4: The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes, proportionately, the necessity for the use of physical force and compulsion in achieving police objectives.
“5: The police seek and preserve public favor, not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to the 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 society without regard to their race or social standing; by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humor; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
“6: The police should 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 to achieve police objectives; and police should use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
“7: The 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 that the public are the police; the police are the only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interest of the community welfare.
“8: The police should always direct their actions toward their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary by avenging individuals or the state, or authoritatively judging guilt or punishing the guilty.
“9: The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.”
Whether Sir Robert Peel was correct in his reasoning with these nine principles is a subject for another time, but one thing is certain: The principles of Sir Robert Peel formed the foundation for modern policing which endures today. Students around the world study and examine more closely the nine principles and all students owe a debt to W. L. Melville Lee for preserving these for us.
To learn more, you may want to read some of the following articles on this site.
- Are Sir Robert Peel’s Principles of Policing Still Useful Today?
- Sir Robert Peel and the Principles of Order
- How Sir Robert Peel Influences Modern Policing
- Peels 9th Principle: Is Police Efficiency the Best Measure of Performance/Success?
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