A lesson lost in America

In 1829 the Greater London area had big crime problem. The powers-that-be recognized the severity of the problem, which was so bad that an armed cop could not safely enter there. He'd quickly get shot.

Solution: diplomatic unarmed cops in distinctive non-military (blue) uniforms, tall (minimum 5' 6"), armed only with a night stick, handcuffs, and a top hat strong enough to stand on in order to peer over a wall. They were trained to be helpful to the public first, to be peace keepers and not law enforcers. Public respect for Bobbies was at its highest. When no one else could do so, a Bobby could approach and disarm a shooter without suffering harm to himself. The solution was so effective that in the public mind it was a sin to harm a Bobby.

Sir Robert (Bobby) Peel in 1829 established at Scotland Yard the [Greater London] Metropolitan Police Force. The 1,000 constables were nicknamed 'Bobbies' or'Peelers'.

Robert Peel became known as the father of modern policing. He is credited for developing the Peelian Principles which defined the ethical requirements police officers must follow to be effective. However, the principles were most likely composed by Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne, who were the first and joint Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police. Rowan was a military man and Mayne, fourteen years his junior, a barrister.

'Nine Principles' reflect 'General Instructions', first published in 1829, issued to, and memorized by every member of the Metropolitan Police, especially the emphasis on diplomacy and prevention of crime as the most important duty of the police.


1 To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2 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.

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

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 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.

9 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.