The passing of the London Metropolitan Police Act in 1829 heralded a new era in policing. Sir Robert Peel envisioned the police as a an alternative to military force, reporting to civilian authority. Peel also envisioned the public as playing a substantial role in policing and Principle Seven stressed his vision of the importance of the relationship between the public and the police.
Peel’s Seventh Principle
“To maintain at all times 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 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.
One of the key aspects of the principle as it relates to the public is ”duties which are incumbent on every citizen, in the interests of community welfare and existence”. Policing and community welfare are the responsibility of all citizens, not just the police. Citizens need to play an active role.
Police Under Civilian Control
An important aspect of the British model of policing is civilian control. Civilian control can translate into political control. The police are too powerful to fall directly under political control. There needs to be a buffer such as an effective police commission to ensure politicians are not in a position to become directly involved in the operational aspects of policing. Direct political control of the police by politicians is a precursor to corruption.
The role of elected officials is to set priorities and provide policy direction. Once priorities are set and policy direction is provided it is up to police to apply their expertise, experience and the resources at their disposal to develop a strategy(s) and an operational action plan that will achieve the desired outcomes. Elected officials have a further role. They must ensure that their policy direction is carried out, that outputs and outcomes are adequately measured, to ensure public monies are spent appropriately, and that the desired results are achieved.
Policing, Politics and Public Policy provides commentary on pertinent policing issues. It is intended to provoke thought, encourage innovation and to examine the impact of politics and public policy on the delivery of police services.
There will be frequent references to Peel’s Principles as their relevance has not diminished.