Peel’s Third Principle

Principle 3 

To recognize always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also securing the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of the laws.    

This principle takes police community involvement and co-operation to the next step.  Securing and maintaining the respect of the public for the police is one thing.  Securing the willing co-operation of the public in terms of observance of the laws is another.  

The test for willing observance of the law is much like the test for personal integrity.  Integrity or the lack thereof is revealed in situations where an individual chooses a course of action free of coercion or compulsion based solely on a set of principles and values.  In the sporting world when Bobby Jones called a two stroke penalty on himself when he could have chosen not to do so (and subsequently lost the 1925 United States Open Golf Championship by one stroke) is a fine example of personal integrity.  When praised for his integrity Jones commented “You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”  Willing observance of the law requires obeying traffic laws, by-laws and criminal law as a matter of principle, not out of fear of being caught.  

The ratio of police to public (1:500) is such that a police presence throughout the entire community at all times is impossible to maintain.  Police patrols at best serve as a reminder to the public that failure to observe laws can have repercussions.  If the public has not ingrained the notion of observance of the laws even without a police presence, social order and observance of the laws cannot be maintained.  To use a sports analogy, it is like the difference between golf where competitors call penalties on themselves based on the principle of adherence to the rules and other sports like hockey or football where competitors attempt to hide their transgression and go to great lengths arguing that they did not violate the rules, when they, and everyone else watching the match knows they did.  

The role of the police, therefore, is not only to enforce the laws but also to educate the public as to what the rules (laws) are, demonstrate strict observance of the laws themselves and convince the public of the merits and virtues of willingly observing the law.  

There is a direct relationship between police workload, and the types of activities police occupy themselves with and the degree of willing observance of the laws by the public. The degree of willing observance of the law, determines how much energy must be devoted to enforcement.  

If police are freed up from enforcing laws involving what are normally viewed as law abiding citizens, their numbers can be reduced and they are then in a position to concentrate on serious criminal activities perpetrated by career criminals, gangs and other organized crime groups.

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