Before 1829, law enforcement was normally handled by regular people who volunteered, sheriffs, constables and night watchmen. They were an informal unorganized group who were trying to solve crime without some type of organized charter. Robert Peel, Home Secretary in the British Cabinet, recognized some of the problems with this informal group and suggested solutions to the problem, community policing. Peel believed that prevention of crime could be done without invading the lives of society. (Gaines) Peel established nine principles to his theory of policing. This paper will show the connection between Peel’s nine principles and its connection to modern day policing, compare and contrast the differences between Peels model and American policing model.
The first principle states that the basic reason for having a police force is to prevent crime and disorder. (Cole) Peel established the police, also known as Bobbies, and the introduction of beats were performed by Bobbies. Law enforcement today are still carrying out the first principle, as law enforcement agencies still patrol neighborhoods trying to prevent crime. In the beginning patrol was done on feet until the invention of automobiles. With the invention of the automobile, patrols became more effective and gave officers more area to cover in a shorter time frame. In the community I live in, there are regular police patrols all day and night. The community also has monthly meetings with the patrol officer once a month. This is a perfect example of Peels first principle.
Peel’s second and third principle deals with public respect and cooperation. It says police must have public approval to be effective and the police must secure the willing cooperation of the public to obey the law in order to have respect of the public. (Cole) In the United States, our society is so diverse that it is necessary for police to understand the different cultures that make up the neighborhoods that they patrol. This can be done through cultural diversity training and education.
With community policing the officers will take a more community involvement stance. No longer does an officer sit in his patrol car and wait for a call that a crime has happened. Within this type of policing, the officers will have a zone in which to work in during their shifts. This is their area and they will work to get to know the citizens of the community and help out in any way they can. The officers will make their presence known and also rely on community citizens to report any suspicious behavior or tips on criminals in the area. (Gaines) This method takes a lot of trust on the officer’s part as well as the citizen’s part. They will have to trust each other and know that each other is looking out for them. Many citizens have stated to several agencies that when they know the officers they start to view them as part of their family and are willing to look out for “their officers” and help keep them safe. (Gaines)
Peels fourth, fifth and six principle deals with the use of police physical force. It States the degree of cooperation from the public declines with the use of force; observe impartial service to the law; and police must use physical force only after using all other means to obtain compliance. (Cole) In today’s society excessive force has been a public concern and the first sign of neighborhood mistrust in police. It is very important that police have the help of the public in order to perform their duties effectively. Gaining the trust of a neighborhood takes time and only one incident to lose that trust. When people have no respect for police officers, they will ignore the demands of police officers. By law, the police have the right to use legitimate force if necessary to make an arrest, maintain order, or keep the peace. Gaines) Just how much force is appropriate under various circumstances can be debatable. When an officer uses excessive force, he or she violates the law. Jerome Skolnick and James Fyfe define police brutality as a conscious and deliberate action that a police officer undertakes toward suspects who are usually members of a powerless social group (for example, racial minorities or homosexuals). Gaines) most brutality is directed against minority groups or otherwise powerless populations. Officers who engage in brutality rationalize their use of extralegal force; they claim they are punishing those groups that threaten to disrupt the social order. (Sigel) The importance of understanding racism in the context of police brutality cannot be underestimated. Many police automatically regard racial minority group members as potentially dangerous regardless of their particular activities, gestures, or attire. This perception of racial minority citizens as “trouble” sometimes translates into racially discriminatory police behavior. (Sigel)
Robert Peel last three principles deals with securing the welfare of the public; enforcing laws and not having the right to punish; and the measure of police effectiveness. (Cole) Every person and organization has the right to have police protection regardless if the person is guilty or innocence. When the KKK has marches, the police are always there for their protection regardless of what their beliefs may be. When taking an oath to serve and protect, police officers promise to preserve the dignity and respect the rights of all individuals, and to act with honesty, courtesy and regard for the welfare of others. (Gaines) Unfortunately, this pledge sometimes puts officers at the homes of people they don’t particularly care for, people who are less than truthful, people who may even be guilty of unspeakable acts and situations that may go against their beliefs. But this oath requires officers to serve and protect, even when their heart isn’t necessarily in it.
Is community policing effective? Many chiefs of police and mayors credit community policing with lowering crime rates. They claim that community policing has restored order in neighborhoods where once open-air drug markets thrived and gangs hung out. (Grieve) New York City is a prime example. The zero tolerance policy, which has been given a showcase in New York City, holds that no crime—not the breaking of a window, not the jumping of a turnstile, not drinking in public—is too insignificant to capture the swift, decisive attention of the police. (Bohm) Arrest more petty offenders and make more arrests for petty offenses today, go the reasoning, and you will have fewer hard-core criminals tomorrow. Under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the NYPD returned to a policy of proactive policing, frisking more than 45,000 suspects for guns and other weapons in 1997 and 1998. (Sigel) According to police officials, New Yorkers are getting results that range from fewer panhandlers to fewer shootings and murders. (Sigel)
Some critics will argue that community policing does not prevent crime. No one knows what community policing is, according to criminal justice professor Carl Klockars. (Bohm) Even though a majority of police departments in America claim to be doing community policing, the differences between the actual operations may be significant. Community policing as it is organized in New York is different from its practice in Chicago, Washington, and Philadelphia. The lack of precision in defining community policing makes it impossible to say with any certainty that community policing is causing crime rates to decrease. (Grieve) The evidence from particular communities used to demonstrate that community policing reduces crime is suspect. By appealing to anecdotal evidence to support the claim that community policing reduces crime, proponents make a hasty generalization on the basis of a very few and possibly unrepresentative cases. (Gaines)
There are differences as well as similarities to Peels model and the American model. Americans selectively incorporated parts of the London model. They adopted the approach of crime prevention through patrol and organized police agencies along military lines. (Gaines) But the London Metropolitan Police were too elitist for Americans. Whereas the British made their new police an agency of the national government, Americans opted for a more democratic police. Americans were given a much more direct voice in police administration than the British. (Grieve) Power and authority were highly centralized in the London police, and the police department was insulated from political influence. Unlike the London police, American police departments were decentralized with political leaders in wards and neighborhoods exerting power over police recruitment, policies, and practices.
The evolution of modern day policing has had many failed attempts and false starts since the early Nineteenth Century and Peel’s principles. Community policing involves and is certainly justified as necessary by Peels Principles. Established in 1829, The Principles currently are applicable and used in law enforcement agencies and community policing organizations today. Though they are not officially declared a code of ethics, they are indeed based on required ethical behavior of law enforcement and the public. (Grieve) Although there are some critics who do not agree with community policing, it seems to work for my neighborhood and the community really like the involvement of the police.