In the wake of the murder of George Floyd there have been protests and discussion about re-inventing policing. There are suggestions to defund the police. In particular there is a movement to end the militarization of police departments.
In response to the public outcry, congressional House and Senate Democrats unveiled legislation that would bring about wide-ranging reforms to police departments across the country. The Democratic proposal, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, has more than 200 sponsors and marks one of the most comprehensive efforts in modern times to overhaul the way police do their jobs.
It would prohibit the use of chokeholds, lower legal standards to pursue criminal and civil penalties for police misconduct, and ban no-knock warrants in drug-related cases. The plan would also create a national registry to track police misconduct.
Beyond the proposed legislation, we can look for guidance in the words of a social reformer who lived two centuries ago, Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern policing. Peel was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the founder of the Metropolitan Police Service. British police are known as bobbies in honor of Sir Robert Peel. Every police officer should know and live the principles that Peel outlined.
"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." --Sir Robert Peel
Peel's Nine Policing Principles were written in 1829. Peel's principles seem if they could have been written today.
Sir Robert Peel’s Nine Principles of Policing
1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
2. To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
3. To recognize always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing cooperation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
4. To recognize always that the extent to which the cooperation 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 favor, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute 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 humor, 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 cooperation 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 recognize 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 recognize 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.