Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Peel's Principles

A couple of summers ago I was working outside a prestigious but not politically important building when I was approached by a couple of guys who turned out to be close protection officers to an American 4 star general who was inside. One guy was ex-FBI and the other ex-NYPD. Naturally we started talking about the differences and similarities on either side of the pond, particularly about the use of firearms etc, when the ex-NYPD officer said "week one of my training, Robert Peel, the Metropolitan Police and how policing has evolved through the years and its role in society, always stuck with me that did"

This amazed me for a number of reasons. Firstly, week one of my training consisted mostly about diversity and about how we were all to be prejudice non-discriminators, this was also just post Macpherson, so I had the joy of finding out that I was a racist. Apparently.

Secondly, at no point throughout any of my training at my home force or at training school did anyone talk about Robert Peel or the history and evolutions of Policing. We did learn a bit about the 5 priorities of a Police officer (listed below) but that was for about an hour and was as close as we got. The only thing I knew about the Met was that they were big, got paid more than we did, that Labour hated them after the Miners strikes and that they had so many people that some of them got to stay in carriers while others walked with protesters. I also found out when I travelled to London to pick up a prisoner once, that they occasionally had their meal breaks together as a whole team and that they had canteens with staff in them.

We, however, still had a couple of Police bars at the time, so at least we upped them on that one.

There is an old adage that says "you can't know where you're going if you don't know where you have been" and I think that this is very relevant to Policing. Not learning about the origins of Policing and how the structures came to be and why they changed after specific events, is like the military not studying the work of Sun Tzu or the battles of Agincourt and The Somme.

Personally, I think its a disgrace that we never learned the history of what is really a fundamental pillar of our society, it almost seems like The Job is actually ashamed of where it has come from. Knowing the type of people in ACPO and the Government, I wouldn't be surprised if that was really the case.

As part of the foundations to the Metropolitan Police Act 1829, Robert Peel developed nine principles that were considered to be the first guidelines for Police officers and Policing in general, and having actually read it all the way through, they are considerably less boring than PACE. Listed below, they all still ring true today, nearly 180 years after the Act came in to place. We could do far, far worse than follow their guidance again, and to be honest these principles are what 95% of the popultation of the UK believe the Police should be about anyway.

1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.

3. 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.

4. The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

5. Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

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.

7. 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.

8. Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

When I was applying to join, one of the exercises was to put the 5 priorities in order and discuss why they were relevant, we also sort of covered these in week one, but not much.
They were -

1) To Protect Life,
2) To Protect Property,
3) To Prevent Crime,
4) To Detect Crime,
5) To Keep the Queens Peace.

Nowadays we seem only to be concerned with the 4th one of detecting crime as all the others can only really be considered as countable if we have actually failed to achieve them when 1) someone dies 2) something is destroyed 3) crime actually takes place and 5) the peace is actually broken.

Looking at the way in which the Government have sought (and to a degree succeeded) to micromanage Police officers and completely remove discretion, it seems clear to me that The Principles are as dead and gone as the role of Constable is sure to be if they carry on at the rate they are going.




Good Blog ,Thanks for the link I have linked to you, stay safe!


chavisty said...

I am not a copper and definately not a Labour supporter by any stretch of the imagination. Do you think it would be any different under a conservative administration though with regard to the Police being micromanaged and the sheer amount of bullshit you have to put up with?
It would be nice to think that coppers could get back to proper Policing IE not wet wipe the arses of the underclass but give them a good slapping, same with the rest of the low life who make people's life a misery.
Well, I can dream.

Metcountymounty said...

I'm not sure to be honesty Chavisty, the Tories have always historically supported the Police although they, like every other party, have tried to bring the police under more direct control. What I am pretty sure is that having people in charge of the Police who spent their youth and working life hating us and working against us, is certainly not the right way to bring about change that is better for everyone in the UK.

Happy Met Copper said...

Nine principles that are still relevant today as they were when written.
I love meeting coppers from other countries, that universal bond that we all share. I think that every overseas copper I have met is amazed at the kit that we do/do not carry. Mostly I have experienced that they are astoninshed we do not carry a firearm, and also our fascination with high visibility. 20 minutes is my record for someone talking continuously about the jacket I was wearing.

Regarding police bars, are there any left? Other than those in sport clubs.

Also does anyone remember how many bars Parliament has?

Sam Tyler said...

Happy met copper- I'm led to believe that Snow Hill nick in CoL still has a bar.

MetCountyMounty - the closest I ever got to the principles of peel was standing in front of his statue and hearing "Class....SHOON!"

Anonymous said...

Remember the Tories brought in PACE, did away with rent allowance and a few other things. If only we had known about their allowances and expenses at the time. Bring on the revolution.

Anonymous said...

My class instructors at Ashford Trg School in '83 made a point of us knowing Peel's principles and were tested on them throughout the 10 weeks course. One evening, when they joined us for a few beers in the bar, they were asked why they kept pushing these principles down our throats. We were told that once we stopped using them we would cease to be Police officers but just another arm of the State. It seems that the writing was on the wall that far back.
Brilliant blog. Keep it up.

Metcountymounty said...

anon above, as I said all the parties have and would continue to try and bring the Police under more direct Government control. In their world they are top dog, and they absolutely hate the fact that in our world, where the rest of us live, that a Police officer has considerably more authority than they do and they have tried for years to get rid of our discretion and ability to operate effectively by undermining us with targets and bureaucracy.

Ordinary Squaddie said...

Firstly, I love your blog, along with those of Night Jack and Area Trace No Search.

That these basics are not more widely known and taught is sad but even worse, it is not surprising.

I do, however, find it shocking that you obviously had to cut and paste the principles from an American source (I would direct your attention to the spelling of "favo(u)r".

Ah well, sounds about right for the UK today.


Anonymous said...

Part of what makes the British Army great is that you are taught the history of whatever Arm you join, Funny that Labour are doing there best to destroy that. But at least they seem to have a General willing to speak out a bit now, not like our Boss who hids away and has certainly locked Peels Principles away, he shows no sign of any back bone or leadership.

Anonymous said...

I have Peels Principles writ large (well, A1 size) above my desk (well, my bit of worktop I call my own) and I have recently noticed an awful lot of one, two and three year bobbies reading them and walking away with a thoughtful expression. Peel's words still resonate and we should hold on to their sentiments for grim death. We know what we do. We know what we should do. We know what we joined to do. We know what They want us to be. And we mustn't sell out.

Anonymous said...

Peel's principals should be taught in schools. Or perhaps that would be against someone's human rights? Excellent blog! For what it's worth, I am not 'in the business' as it were, but an engineer on the outside. I see the Police do the good work just to have it unravelled by the niff-naff and scum that our PC-incorrect government does nothing about.

All the best.

Metcountymounty said...

ordinary squaddie, I copied the list of the principles from wikipedia and was aware of the spelling mistake, I thought it was typical that I couldn't quickly find them on any Police site!!

anon 0922, I remember my dad telling me about the various drill instructors and all arms courses that he went on, one of the points that they made specific emphasis was knowing EVERYTHING about your cap badge, your regiments history and battle honours. Instead of trying to sweep the past under the carpet, individual achievement is shared and recognised, even if the event itself didn't go as planned. Heaven forbid a Police officer is recognised for personal achievement after something like a riot or an incident that went pear shaped.

Thanks everyone for reading and your posts so far, I've got a few lined up so hopefully not too deep or depressing but I'll play it by ear! thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that 9 was particularly relevant in the current detection culture.

We had a pretty good year last year, reducing crime by quite a lot AND detecting quite a lot of it. It just bugs me that with no more resources, in fact fewer, we have to decrease crime AND increase detections again for the next year.

I am curious if anyone has extrapolated this trend and realised that high ranking heads might explode when they try to figure out why were aren't detecting no crime.