Principles of Policing
Sir Robert Peel (1788- 1850)
Sir Robert Peel was a British statesman who laid the foundation of the Metropolitan Police Service. It is for this reason that he is considered the Father of Modern British Policing. He got immense popularity for the most famous ‘Peelian Principles of Policing’ which are a matter of great interest for the readers in general, and the young men and women aspiring to become police officers in particular.
The profile of Sir Robert Peel is as under:
§ He served twice as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) – from 1834 to 1835, and from 1841 to 1846.
§ He remained the Home Secretary twice – from 1822 to 1827, and from 1828 to 1830.
§ He was one of the founders of the modern Conservative Party.
§ He was instrumental in introducing the Mine Act of 1842 which prohibited women and children from working underground in mines and the Factory Act of 1844 which limited the number of hours worked by women and children employed in factories.
Sir Robert Peel gave the famous ‘Peelian Principles of Policing’ which are enumerated as under:
1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
Preventing crime and disorder is better than using the alternative option of 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 actions.
The spirit of these principles is commonly referred to as ‘policing by consent’. Public approval of police actions increases the ability of police to perform its functions. Police actions get legitimacy from the implied general consent of the public whose support for police is dependent on transparency in the use of police powers and their full accountability in the use of such powers.
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.
Public operation in the process of law-enforcement would make the process easier and secure respect of the public as well.
4. The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
The greater the level of cooperation of the public, the lesser the need of the physical force and vice versa.
5. Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to the public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
This is a very important principle as it clarifies the concept that police should not secure cooperation of the public at the cost of compromising the law-enforcement, and by surrendering to the public opinion. Police preserve public favour by creating no exceptions to enforcement of the law. This principle demonstrates that rule of law should be held, and justice be done at all levels.
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.
Use of physical force is the last option. The earlier options to be used by the police are advice, persuasion and warning. When these pacific modes are exhausted, only then physical force should be used.
Another important point is that the minimum physical force which is necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order, should be used.
7. Police at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives realty 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.
This is the principle that is the foundation of the community policing. Policing is the responsibility of every citizen; however, police officers are paid for this important duty. Police officers are regarded as citizens in uniform.
8. Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
Police are required to perform the duty assigned to them; by no means should they assume functions of the judiciary. They are not required to act as a judge or jury. Their role is the prevention of offences and investigation of the cases.
9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
Last but not least, absence of crime and disorder is the greatest indicator of police efficiency.
Origin of Peelian principles
These principles were in the form of general instructions issued to every new police officer in the Metropolitan force from 1829 onwards. Though credit for drafting these principles is given to Sir Robert Peel, it is suggested that these principles were probably drafted by two joint Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police. Later on, these instructions or set of guidelines were rephrased into nine principles by Charles Reith in his 1948 book titled as ‘A Short History of the British Police’.
Significance of Peelian principles
These principles underpin a unique philosophy that powers of the police are derived from the general consent of the public, and not from the state. However, this implied consent cannot be withdrawn by an individual or a group of people.
Significance of these principles is highlighted in the historical perspective when they were given. It was the time when the idea of setting up a militarized police force was met with severe opposition in London. People believed that such an armed force could be used to suppress their voice and protest.
So, it was the time when Sir Robert Peel was Home Secretary, and London – a city of less than 2 million inhabitants – was being policed by a few constables and around 4000 watchmen who belonged to different organizations. He introduced the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 that founded the professional police force for London.
These principles are still taught to almost every police officer in the police training academies as they are considered the basis of ethical police force.
This set of instructions is still valid like universal quotes. Peel’s vision for the society was that community should police themselves, and role of the police should be of preventive nature to a large extent. Police force is to be used in extreme necessity, not as a routine.
The writer is a civil servant, belonging to Police Service of Pakistan (PSP).