The Nine Principles of Policing were developed by Sir Robert Peel to better guide the London Metropolitan Police Force in conducting their official duties. 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 the 9 Principles of Policing by Sir Robert Peel in their original form.
Sir Robert Peel adopted these nine principles because he believed that the use of soldiers for policing 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 support of that ideology, Peel developed the guiding principles which bear his name and adorn police departments around the world.
The nine principles developed by Sir Robert Peel have endured time and form the foundation for police globally. 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.
The Mission of Police
“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.
The Need for Public Support
“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.
Excessive Force to be Avoided/Impartiality Vital
“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.
Unity Between the Police and the Public
“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.
Police are Not Judges
“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.
The Test of Mission Success
“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 these and all owe a debt to W. L. Melville Lee for preserving them for posterity.
In an era when law enforcement agencies grapple with the need to be more aggressive (meeting force with force), keeping these principles in mind can serve to help them balance their mission with the public good. Peel believed that police were not soldiers at odds with the public, but were part of the public itself. These ideals demonstrate this and can soundly guide any law enforcement officer today. The Nine Peelian Principles are timeless.
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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