Today there is a high level of frustration about the British police service however, nobody could possibly be as frustrated as Robert…
After devoting the majority of my adult working life to the police I like many others, am saddened by the apparent decline in the service. The demise of a service that was once highly respected and a model for other forces around the world… What is the cause of this frustration and decline and more importantly, is there actually a cure? Has society changed so much that the original policing concept is no longer valid?
The Government are frustrated because they want more performance for less financial outlay and they call that reform. The public are frustrated because they want protection which they call service. And the police officers themselves? Well in general they want to be left alone (by the Government) to get on with the job, give a service to the public and when required… Catch some bloody crooks!
Sir Robert Peel – (5 February 1788 – 2 July 1850)
Robert Peel was responsible for the creation of the modern concept of the police force while serving as Home Secretary. In 1829 Peel formed the Metropolitan Police.
The force operated and applied his nine principles of policing and although initially unpopular, were so succesful in reducing crime in the capital that all cities were legally obliged to form their own police forces by 1857.
The original concept of policing has not changed however, it has been seriously messed about with and hampered by succesive governments and politicians.
Peel’s Policing Principles;
- The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
- The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.
- Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
- The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
- Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
- 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.
- 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 on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
- Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
- The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
Society may have changed a bit since then and, technology undoubtedly continues to advance at a massive rate however; I suggest that Peel’s principles are just as valid today as they were when formulated. This may be a simple view but perhaps that is exactly what is required? After years of change and ‘reform’ led by think tank professors, politicians and ACPO officers (many more motivated by self advancement than the actual police service), things seem to actually be getting worse not better!
Numerous reports and thematic inspections over the years have consistently produced the same bottom line results about policing… The public still want the police to provide the service they were actually invented for. The police have better tools to do the job but these aren’t often used to best advantage. And most worryingly, police efficiency only ever appears to be measured by statistical bean counting!
Policing is simple; its sole aim is ‘the protection of life and property’. I’m sure that Sir Robert Peel never said… “Oh by the way officer, whilst your at it make sure you collect some statistics to justify my existence”!
Any officer who doesn’t aspire to being at least a Superintendent (preferably an ACPO officer) is usually branded as being lazy and inefficient. The management structure of the service (like most public bodies) has expanded at such a rate that today, there are actually ‘more chiefs than indians’. Succesive Governments have in many ways effectively driven a wedge between the police and the public. Over the years the service has evolved into an agency that is now actually required to police by force as opposed to consent.
Now it is obvious that good public services in a society don’t come cheap and, especially during the current financial down turn, the government and senior managers hanker after efficiency. The majority of public bodies have been going through ‘best value reviews’ for years now but the levels of management still increase at the expense of the workers… How can this be efficiency and value for money?
After all, it’s not the superintendent that catches the crook, it’s not the fire chief who puts out the chip pan fire and, it’s not the nursing director that sets your childs broken leg. So when a Police Authority asks for an extra 3% on the precept in your Community Charge, are you confident that extra money is being used to provide the frontline service you want?
I suspect a large proportion of it will be swallowed up in the administrative machine (as usual)!