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Policing Principles Series: Introduction

Sir Robert Peel

The role of the police in society, and the method by which that role is executed, has changed hugely since the days of Sir Robert Peel's formation of the Metropolitan Police Force. Police reform has often been both a bone of contention between parties, and a political axe wielded with inexperience by many a politician. This almost always leaves those charged with the Office of Constable playing piggy in the middle while their future role is sculpted with often no reference to the principles that underpin what they do.

Police reform is essential, and i don't think you will find any police officer deny that. For example, the development of technology has provided the police with more sophisticated methods of detection, which has then been matched with even more sophisticated methods of committing crime...and this forms the basis of the never ending battle by the police to find themselves one step ahead of the criminal. The changing political climate, civil liberties breakthroughs, and changing expectations from the public are all good reasons to reform...but they must be undertaken with a keen eye on our policing principles.

The principles that guide the police are both numerous, and scant. Law, policy, guidance and accepted practice change almost weekly...this is influenced by politics, emerging threats, technological advances, and world changing crimes like 9/11. These changes are essential, but it is the reactive changes that cause the policing community to lose sight. The first principles of policing are difficult to pin down. It is clear that those set down by Sir Robert Peel are the natural starting point for any discussion of this kind. However, it would be sort sighted of the policing community to consider these the only principles.

I am no criminologist, and have no intention of attempting to put the complex issue of police reform to bed in one blog post. I do, however, want to start a discussion by looking at 3 theories.
  • Fathers of Policing (initial principles)
  • Patrol Experiments
  • Broken Windows Theory
 I will be working on the next article over the next couple of the days...i can tell you're all excited.