By John A. Gayder

It is interesting to note that the formation of the first paid police force received strong opposition. The public was very suspicious of increased government intrusion into their lives. In 1822, Sir Robert Peel came up with Nine Principles of policing in order to calm their fear. These fears are best summed up in this passage from a report to one of the Royal Commissions hearing on this matter:

It is difficult to reconcile an effective system of police with that of perfect freedom of action and exemption from interference, which are the great privileges and blessings of society in this country…[these] are too great a sacrifice for improvements in police, of facilities in detection of crime, however desirable in themselves. – From: The Police Force, L.F. Hobley, Allman and Son, UK, 1971

Regardless of such skeptical voices, Peel did go on to establish the first "Bobbies" or "Peelers". Police forces in all Commonwealth countries can trace their ideological bloodlines back to Sir Robert Peel:

Canadian police forces have never formally subscribed to any set of principles of policing. Nevertheless, the principles on which Canadian policing developed are generally the same as those of the British police.

They were first enunciated by Sir Robert Peel in England in 1822 when he was working toward the establishment of the London Metropolitan Police, which claims to be the first organized paid police force in the English-speaking world. – From: Policing in Canada, William and Nora Kelly (Toronto: Macmillan Co. 1976)

Up until very recently, police recruits in Canada were expected to be familiar with his tenets before graduation from training. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, his Nine Principles have been watered down or co-opted by selective editing to endorse programs Peel himself not have supported.

The ideological sentiments contained in his original principals are not perfect, but are far better than the ideology fueling current trends in policing. Far from being just a list of niceties which police and the justice system should try to adhere to, they can also be described as a "recipe" or "formula" for successful policing. As any chef or chemist will tell you; deviations from the recipe or formula will result in something different than intended. Canadian policing would be safer and more effective if we would return to their usage.

Here are Sir Robert’s timeless precepts, complete and unabridged, as found in: A Short History of the British Police, (London: Oxford University Press, 1948).


  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and by severity of legal punishment.
  2. To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill 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.
  3. To recognize always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of willing cooperation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
  4. To recognize always that the extent to which the cooperation 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 to 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 injustices 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 cooperation 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 time 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 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.
  9. 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.