Peel’s Sixth Principle

Principle Six

To use physical force only when the  exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public cooperation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order; and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

This principle can be divided into two sub-principles.  The first deals with the hierarchy of approaches that should be used by police in securing observance of the law or to restore order in situations where the law has been violated.  The second deals with situations where a decision has been made that the use of physical force is appropriate and deals with the degree or amount of force that should be used. 

Peel makes it clear  the initial approach by police should be to use methods such as persuasion, advice and warning in preference to physical force.  This implies a rational approach to situations.  The corollary is that police are dealing with rational individuals.  Irrational individuals are not likely to respond positively to a verbal exchange. 

The majority of situations involving exchanges between police and citizens are rational exchanges.  This is reflected in the National Use of Force Framework promoted by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.  A visual representation of the framework is presented here to add clarity. 


 Source:  Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.  Available at: 

This framework assists officers in their decision making process in terms of ensuring the approach they use is not only appropriate but also effective in the given situation they are facing.   

The chart is read starting from the 12 o’clock position.  The center of the chart represents the situation faced by a police officer and may vary from friendly/passive encounters to life and death scenarios.   

The first police response is simply a physical presence.  In many situations the presence of a police officer is all that is required to quell a situation.  The second response (the 2 o’clock position on the chart) is communication.  In many situations a conversation between an officer and a citizen(s) is all that is required to ensure compliance with the law and/or to restore order.  This second response can be related to Peel’s ‘persuasion, advice and warning’. 

The subsequent responses in the use of force framework rely on an ever increasing use of force in the form of hard physical control, intermediate weapons and ultimately the use of lethal force. 

The principle goes on to state that if non-physical measures are not adequate to secure observance of the law or to restore order then only as much force as is necessary should be used by police. 

This is an area that often causes  conflict between police and the public.  Many citizens when arrested claim that the amount of force used against them was excessive based on what their intention was.  They may have known what their intention was but the police officer did not and cannot assume what the citizen’s intention might be.  For that reason most use of force polices in Canada employ the ‘plus one doctrine’ which sees police officers use force that is one step above the force or resistance they encounter.  This approach is taken to ensure the safety of the officer. 

One of the shortcomings of the use of force policies of most policing agencies is their failure to educate the public as to what the policy is.  Proper education and perhaps even publication of the use of force policy would address the issue of people not understanding what the police are likely to do in a given situation, and why.  Using the plus one doctrine, police are justified, by policy, in using lethal force when confronted by an aggressive suspect with a weapon such as a knife,  if the suspect does not drop the weapon when ordered to do so.  Perhaps if suspects were aware of this they would be more likely to drop the knife when ordered to do so by police.