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Peelian principles

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The Peelian principles summarise the ideas that Sir Robert Peel developed to define an ethical police force. The approach expressed in these principles is commonly known as policing by consent in the United Kingdom and other countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.[1][2][3][4]

In this model of policing, police officers are regarded as citizens in uniform. They exercise their powers to police their fellow citizens with the implicit consent of those fellow citizens. "Policing by consent" indicates 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, their integrity in exercising those powers and their accountability for doing so.[5]


In early 19th-century Britain, attempts by the government to set up a police force for London met with a lot of opposition. People were suspicious of the idea of a large and possibly armed police force, and feared that it could be used to suppress protest or support unpopular rule. Since 1793 Britain had been at war with France, home of the best-known, best-organised and best-paid police force at the time, as well as a secret and political police force, and many Britons were uncomfortable with any police force's association with France. Most people did not think that it was the job of the national government to set up and control a police force, and thought it should be under local control.[6][7]

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.[8]

Nine principles of policingEdit

Nine principles were set out in the "General Instructions" issued to every new police officer in the Metropolitan Police from 1829.[1][9] Although Peel discussed the spirit of some of these principles in his speeches and other communications, the historians Susan Lentz and Robert Chaires found no proof that he compiled a formal list.[10] The Home Office has suggested that the instructions were probably written, not by Peel himself, but by Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, the joint Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police when it was founded.[1][9]

The nine principles were as follows:

  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 consentEdit

The historian Charles Reith explained in his New Study of Police History (1956) that these principles constituted an approach to 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".[1][11]

The Home Office in 2012 explained this approach 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" and added an additional statement outside of the Peelian principles: "No individual can choose to withdraw his or her consent from the police, or from a law."[1]

Modern police reformers have described the Peelian Principles as being relevant in the present day, with American law-enforcement officer William Bratton calling them "my bible."[12]

As a result of the tradition of policing by consent, the United Kingdom has a different approach to policing public-order crime, such as riots, as compared other western countries, such as France.[13][14] Nonetheless, public order policing presents challenges to the approach of policing by consent.[15][16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e "Policing by consent". UK Government. 10 December 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  2. ^ de Lint, Willem (December 2004). "Public Order Policing in Canada" (PDF). p. 9. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  3. ^ Goldsmith, Andrew (2001). "Police Power and Democracy in Australia". National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  4. ^ Buttle, John. "The Case Against Arming The New Zealand Police". Retrieved 29 December 2013. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "Surveillance Camera Code of Practice" (PDF). UK Government Home Office. June 2013. p. 5. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  6. ^ "Sir Robert Peel and the new Metropolitan Police". The National Archives. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  7. ^ "Relations between the Police and Public". The Open University. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  8. ^ "Metropolitan Police". UK Parliament. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Principles of Good Policing". The Institute for the Study of Civil Society. December 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Reith, Charles (1956). A New Study of Police History. London: Oliver & Boyd. p. 140.
  12. ^ "Sir Robert Peel's Nine Principles of Policing". The New York Times. 2014-04-16. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  13. ^ Orde, Hugh (2011-05-05). "The British approach to policing protest". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  14. ^ Jordan, Mark (30 July 2012). Contextualising and Comparing the Policing of Public Order in France and Britain (PDF) (PhD thesis). Cardiff University. "The main conclusions drawn from this research lie in the differences of histories, structures and traditions manifest in the central national institutions of France, and the devolved community based approach of the British. The tensions apparent in both states lie between the relevance of Republican Ideals or Peelian Principles respectively and their social realities."
  15. ^ Mead, David (2010-12-10). "Time to reconsider policing by consent? | David Mead". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  16. ^ Grace, Jamie (2018-05-08). "A balance of rights and protections in public order policing: A case study on Rotherham". European Journal of Current Legal Issues. 24 (1). ISSN 2059-0881. It is of course a vital element of police legitimacy, based on the theory 'policing by consent' that predominates in the UK context, that public protest is policed impartially, and in a politically neutral manner