Peel’s Fifth Principle

Principle 5 

To seek and to preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustices of the substance of individual laws; by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing; by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life. 

This principle gets to the meat of the matter in terms of separating policing from political influence. Public favour is maintained not by catering to the wants and needs of interest groups in society but rather by complete and total impartial service to the law.  Everyone is deemed equal before the law and through observance of the rule of impartiality the police can make that a reality.  

Police policies must be independent of political influence and they cannot and should not be over-ridden by political agendas.  Police policy must provide equality of service to all citizens.  It must not matter that one knows the premier, a member of the Legislative Assembly, the mayor or a city counselor.  The true test of the equality of a system is the ability to get the same service and treatment despite the fact that you have no political connections.  This separation of politics and policy does not imply that politicians cannot provide policy direction.  It simply means that once policy has been put in place there should be no attempt by politicians to influence outcomes or interject themselves into situations on a case by case basis.  To do so would “pierce the sacred veil of operations”, the veil being the invisible barrier that separates political decision making from operational decision making.   

Police must refrain from being publicly critical of existing legislation.  The role of the police is to enforce laws, not to criticize legislation.  The police must also refrain from criticizing judicial decisions as doing so undermines the administration of justice.  Criticism of the law and judicial decisions, especially in terms of sentencing decisions, reveals a glaring lack of their understanding of the police role in the criminal justice system.  If police officers are not able to accept that at a personal level that they will not agree with some judicial decision then they are in the wrong line of work. Not only will it cause frustration, it may also lead to flawed decision making and differential treatment of members of the public.     

 It is especially troublesome when senior police executives don’t understand their role and make public comment critical of judicial decisions.  Police executives certainly have a role to play in this regard but it should not be one of offering criticism in a public forum.  They have access to politicians both on an individual basis and through advocacy organization such as associations of chiefs of police at both the provincial and federal level which afford the opportunity to air their concerns and make recommendations for change.      

This principle also makes it clear that individual wealth and social standing should not affect the level of service citizens receive from police.  Because these principles were written in the early 1800’s, race is not mentioned as British society at that time was not racially diverse.  In modern society the delivery of police services and race has become an issue and police service delivery must not only be blind in terms of wealth and social standing, it must also be color blind.  It is ironic that most police agencies as part of the screening process, test applicants for colour blindness.  Applicants who are colour blind (in terms of the primary colours) are screened out.  In a broader social sense, police agencies should in fact attempt to identify and hire recruits that are truly ‘colour blind’.          

The last aspect of this principle addresses the willingness to make individual sacrifices to protect and preserve life.  Police agencies have an obligation to create a safe workplace for police officers through training, policy, procedures and the use of technology and appropriate equipment.  It must be recognized that some aspects of police work are inherently dangerous.  This principle addresses the issue of officer safety from the perspective of ensuring that procedures not become so restrictive that the safety of citizens is negatively affected.  An example might be a restriction that does not allow an officer to go to the assistance of a citizen at risk unless accompanied by another officer.  A healthy balance must be struck between officer safety concerns and the safety of citizens.

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