Although the authorship and publication date of “The Nine Principles of Good Policing” remain unknown, it is likely that the foundations of present day law enforcement in the UK were laid down in 1829 by Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, first joint Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police. Following a bad couple of weeks for the Met, those principles are worth revisiting.
The inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests, the ongoing prosecution of the peaceful protesters who occupied Fortnum and Mason and the rather questionable conduct of officers investigating the News of the World phone hacking scandal have not engendered public confidence in the police service. Back in 1829, the nine principles were enshrined in the “General Instructions” issued to every officer in the newly formed Met. Based on co-operation, respect, approval and even affection, the principles are:
To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
182 years later, the Association of Chief Police Officers might like to consider re-issuing these “General Instructions” to the people charged with protecting what the late John Mortimer QC described as Laura Norder. Perhaps if the officers in attendance at Hillsborough in 1989 and those involved with Blair Peach, Stephen Lawrence, Jean Charles de Menezes and, indeed, Ian Tomlinson had this code in the breast pocket of the tunic, events might have taken a different turn.
Because of these nine principles, the British police force is unique in its approach and relationship with the public. The seventh principle, “that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police”, ensures that Laura is not in the hands of the State, the Crown or any transient government. The people are the police and the police are the people. Chief Constables should therefore think twice before deploying officers to break strikes or kettle legal and legitimate demonstrations because those decisions are politically motivated. It seems ironic that public order offences are being committed by the very citizens that are employed to prevent such disorder.
The Metropolitan Police would do well to look to the West Midlands to learn how to engage with fellow citizens. Smithy the police search dog is on Twitter, much to the chagrin of the Tax Payers Alliance and the Daily Mail. That has to be a good thing. Life at the sharp end of policing in Walsall is reported by the excellent PC Richard Stanley on Twitter and on his informative and entertaining blog. Even the police helicopter is now on Twitter. Similarly, Superintendent Mark Payne gives a view from the top of the West Midlands Police and has incurred the wrath of none other than Sir Alex Ferguson and the national press for correctly suggesting that if the loutish behaviour displayed by a Mr Wayne Rooney had taken place on the streets of Wolverhampton, the result would have been an arrest and charges relating to a public order offence. Should Wolves survive relegation, the Superintendent might wish to take a breathalyser to Molineux and have a quiet word with the United manager.
These forays into social media will never replace the rose-tinted and quaint notion of the friendly neighbourhood Bobby on the beat, but they do give a human, and canine, face to the police service. Reduced funding for the police will result in the loss of front line officers and a reduction in levels of service and the imposition of elected Police Commissioners will politicise the constabulary and tear up the nine principles. Open, honest and factual communication does a lot to strengthen the trust between the police and the public.
As a rotten government continues to attack its people, the police have a clear choice. If the police service allow themselves to be forced into becoming a political instrument of the state instead of remaining part of the public, trust and approval will be eroded.
West Midlands Police are leading the way in community engagement using social media. PC Richard Stanley is hosting an on line session on Twitter when the public can ask questions regarding the policing of Walsall. It takes place on Wednesday April 20 between 7pm and 8pm at http://www.twitter.com/walsallpolice
Tell him Laura sent you.