Police, ‘Plebgate’ and the Peelian Principles

Over at the Telegraph, I learn poor old plod is feeling a bit low. It seems, according to a survey, morale is plummeting. An overwhelming number of them don’t think the government loves them enough, and Andrew Mitchell’s alleged ‘pleb’ remark has cut them to the quick.

Former head of the Met Lord Stevens, who is interviewed in the piece, expresses much concern on a number of points, including the ‘politicisation’ of the service due to the soon-to-be elected commissioners, and the Police Federation turn up to offer the standard union whinge.

One thing is notable by its absence. There is no mention of the public, either what they think of the police or vice versa. It may be that it simply wasn’t part of the survey, but the impression is given that the police have wholly lost sight of what their role is supposed to be, according to the Peelian Principles, which I shall quote below:

  1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
  2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.
  3. Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
  4. The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
  5. Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
  6. Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient.
  7. Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and 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 upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
  8. Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
  9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

If this survey accurately reflects the state of mind of the majority of coppers, they really need to get their priorities straight. The politicisation of the service is not a future threat, but rather something which has already happened. Increased centralisation to Whitehall control, reams of politically-motivated laws added to the statute, paper-heavy procedural regulations, together with the effects of the Miners’ Strike in the 1980s and the Macpherson Report in the 1990s have all played a part. Whether the new commissioners will increase or decrease that process remains to be seen.

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