The Peelian principles describe the philosophy that Sir Robert Peel developed to define an ethical police force. This philosophy is commonly known as policing by consent in the United Kingdom and other countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In the British model of policing, police officers are citizens in uniform. They exercise their powers to police their fellow citizens with the implicit consent of their fellow citizens. Policing by consent is the phrase used to describe this. It denotes that the legitimacy of policing in the eyes of the public is based upon a general consensus of support that follows from transparency about their powers, demonstrating integrity in exercising those powers and their accountability for doing so.
In early 19th century Britain, attempts by the government to set up a police force for London met with considerable opposition:
- People were suspicious of the idea of a large police force, possibly armed. They feared it could be used to suppress protest or support unpopular rule.
- Paris had the best-known, best-organised, paid police force. Britain was at war with France from 1793 to 1815, so many people disliked the idea because of the association with France.
- People did not think it was the job of the government to set up and control a police force; they thought it should be under local control.
The concept of professional policing was taken up by Robert Peel when he became Home Secretary in 1822. Peel's Metropolitan Police Act 1829 established a full-time, professional and centrally-organised police force for the greater London area known as the Metropolitan Police.
The principles traditionally ascribed to Peel state that:
- Every police officer should be issued an identification number, to assure accountability for his actions.
- Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime.
- Above all else, an effective authority figure knows trust and accountability are paramount. Hence, Peel's most often quoted principle that "The police are the public and the public are the police."
The nine principles of policing
The following nine principles were set out in the ‘General Instructions’ issued to every new police officer in the Metropolitan Police from 1829. Although Peel discussed the spirit of some of these principles in his speeches and other communications, researchers Lentz and Chaires found no proof that he ever actually compiled a formal list. It has been suggested this list was more likely authored by Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, the first and joint Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police.
- To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
- To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
- To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
- To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
- To seek and 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 injustice 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.
- To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation 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.
- 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.
- To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
- To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
Policing by consent
As explained by the notable police historian Charles Reith in his ‘New Study of Police History' in 1956, this was a philosophy of policing "unique in history and throughout the world because it derived not from fear but almost exclusively from public co-operation with the police, induced by them designedly by behaviour which secures and maintains for them the approval, respect and affection of the public". This gave rise to the philosophy of British policing known as 'policing by consent'.
The UK Home Office explained this philosophy as the power of the police coming from the common consent of the public, as opposed to the power of the state. It does not mean the consent of an individual; in other words, no individual can chose to withdraw his or her consent from the police, or from a law.
- "Policing by consent". UK Government. 10 December 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- de Lint, Willem (December 2004). "Public Order Policing in Canada". p. 9. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- Goldsmith, Andrew (2001). "Police Power and Democracy in Australia". National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- Buttle, John. "The Case Against Arming The New Zealand Police". Academia.edu. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- "Surveillance Camera Code of Practice". UK Government Home Office. June 2013. p. 6. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- "Sir Robert Peel and the new Metropolitan Police". The National Archives. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- "Metropolitan Police". UK Parliament. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- "Principles of Good Policing". The Institute for the Study of Civil Society. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- Lentz, Susan A.; Chaires, Robert H. (2007). "The invention of Peel's principles: A study of policing ‘textbook’ history". Journal of Criminal Justice 35 (1): 69–79. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2006.11.016.
- Reith, Charles (1956). A New Study of Police History. London: Oliver and Boyd. p. 140.