This blog entry is the start of Part Two of our ongoing Law Enforcement and Community Relations collaborative series. As described in the introductory blog for that collaborative series, we will be working with participating youth to develop comic collaborations relating to various law enforcement and community relations topics, many of which we plan to publish in our upcoming Issue 3 of the Back of the Yards comic series.
In that context, as we have been exploring various topics related to law enforcement and community relations. Within A Man Named Peel and His Vision, we first learn of an English Politician named Robert Peel who is credited as for creating England’s first state-backed police force, which soon thereafter became the model from which many American cities would create their own police forces.
It is in that context that we will dig just a little deeper here into some of the driving principles behind Peel’s early police motivations with this blog entry. So, without further ado …
Turns out Sir Robert Peel was just getting started when he marshalled through his Metropolitan Police Act of 1929. Peel would go on to serve twice as Prime Minister of England. Look up Peel in Wikipedia, and you will see the following among other accolades:
“The great Conservative patriot: a pragmatic gradualist, as superb in his grasp of fundamental issues as he was adroit in handling administrative detail, intelligent enough to see through abstract theories, a conciliator who put nation before party and established consensus politics.”
In short, Peel was basically the man in England back in his day.
And even today, Peel’s legacy lives on within many of our most established police units through what are known as Peel’s Nine Principles for effective policing.
Hear ye, hear ye! We present to you Peel’s Principles:
“The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.”
“The ability of the police to reform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.”
“Police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.”
“The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use physical force.”
“Police seek and preserve public favor not be catering to the public opinion by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial to the law.”
“Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be sufficient.”
“Police at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public the gives reality to the historic tradition that 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.”
“Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.”
“The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”
One thing you might notice when you read Peel’s Principles is that they could serve as a doctrine of sorts for community policing. At their core, these principles are fundamentally aspirational. They seem to define the standard that we’d expect from those that we authorize to use force to keep the peace. A higher calling.
I have friends that are police officers. Friends and families that I deeply admire. Friends who I believe aspire to Peel’s Principles, even if implicitly.
At the same time, just yesterday as I write this very blog, there were protests throughout my hometown of Chicago calling to “defund the police” in response to the tragedies of George Floyd and the many others gun down by police, including Chicago’s own Laquan McDonald.
When confronted with these tragedies, a common refrain from many is that “most cops are good cops.” Well, on that score, I personally couldn’t agree more. I know my friends are good cops. I know they are good to their families and friends. And I know they are committed to their communities. And I can’t imagine being in their shoes given the challenges they must confront on a daily basis.
But on some level, this also seems to be a red herring. The question is not whether most cops are good cops. The question is what then, assuming most cops are in fact good cops, is driving some of the systematic failures that we have witnessed? How do we even begin to reconcile these dueling realities?
And just what would our man Peel think if he were alive today? Would he think that his esteemed Principles apply today? And if not, why not?
And from there, we will pick up later. For now, we put together three related comic collaborations to work on with participating youth for Issue 3 of the Back of the Yards comic series: Peel ‘s Principles – Related Collaborations.