This column was contributed by San Benito County Sheriff Captain Eric Taylor. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
For much of recent history, the role of law enforcement in the United States has been rooted heavily in the enforcement side of title. For a time, our profession drifted away from the “friendly neighborhood cop” model. There has been an effort in the last few decades, especially in California, to get back to community policing and development of public trust.
It is imperative for us to adhere to the “Peelian Principles” of policing. These are nine principles developed by Sir Robert Peel, and his first commissioners Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, of the Metropolitan Police in Britain. They were the first step in the development of an ethical police force that performed policing by consent.
I learned early in my career from my former police chief Terry Medina that “the public allows us to police them.” He would warn us that we had “more power than the president” and to never take that responsibility lightly. I have always believed in the importance of never losing the consent, nor violating the trust of the communities I have policed in my career.
In essence, the nine Peelian Principles state the following in regard to developing and maintaining a professional police force:
- To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
- To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfil 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.
- To recognize 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 recognize 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 favor, 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 humor, 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 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.
- 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.
Some in law enforcement tend to forget this is a job of service to the community. We have to be able to take a person’s freedom, without taking their dignity. There is evil in this world. But true evil is rare…we may only see it a very few times in our careers. There are also bad people in the world that need to have their behaviors interrupted. But, the vast majority of people that enter the criminal justice system, and have contact with the police, are good people that make poor choices. The rest are victims and witnesses that should always be listened to, cared for, and served.
For this reason, you should expect to see your local “cops” performing community services like being present at school functions, fundraisers and sporting events. They should be interacting with youth in our parks, walking their beats at times, and be part of neighborhood watch and community presentations. Policing is more than responding to calls, arresting people and giving tickets. Those are all important job functions, and are very necessary, but they aren’t the whole picture. Please invite us to your meetings, say “hi” at the local coffee (or donut) shop, and don’t hesitate to interact with us.
If you ever have reason to believe we aren’t living up to these principles, give me a call at (831) 636-4087 or email me at [email protected] Also email me at [email protected] with questions or ideas I can address in this column.