Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.”     G.K. Chesterton

September 27, 2007

Was Sir Robert Cruising For a Tasing?

by tarran

Ever wonder why the the police in London are called Bobbies? They got that name from their founder, Sir Robert Peel, who is widely held to be the father of modern policing. I don’t think this is accurate, since modern policing as of the beginning of the 21th century has as much to do with Sir Robert’s ideas as the Borgia papacy had to do with St Peter’s ideas.

Sir Robert Peel is a bit of a conundrum: To his credit, he broke the back of the landed gentry in England by repealing the Corn Laws when he was prime minister. Shamefully, he was a supporter of laws that forbade Catholics from owning land and participating in certain professions. He also passed the first ‘Factory Laws’ which, in effect, punished factory owners for the “crime” of opening businesses that were more attractive to workers than slaving away on farms for no money at all.

However, prior to becoming prime minister, Sir Robert Peel was given the task of introducing professional law enforcers or ‘police’ to London, and here he made his greatest contribution to humanity. Prior to this law enforcement was carried out by whatever men at arms noblemen had at their disposal. The result, when coupled with a death penalty for felonies, was predictable, law enforcement was generally performed by amateurs whose mistakes or malice sent many an innocent person to the gallows.

In an attempt to establish a police force that possessed discipline and professionalism, Sir Robert Peel published the following principles:

The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder

1.The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.

2.Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

3.The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

4.Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

5.Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient.

6.Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that 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 upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

7.Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

8.The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

I think in this day and age, most police have never learned these principles, which shows up in the increasingly draconian and brutal relationship policemen seem to have with the rest of the polity.

I especially want to call attention to the last three principles:

Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that 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 upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Many policemen have taken to viewing themselves as being somehow separated from the citizenry. This view manifests itself in terms like “civilian” for citizens who are not police, and talk of “the thin blue line”. The view increasingly seems to be that the police are the fathers or teachers, and that the non-police are savages or children who must be disciplined and restrained lest they make Lord of the Flies a reality.

This view is wrong and incompatible with a civilized society. We are all police: the neighbor who stops kids from vandalizing a mail-box, the armed grandmother who subdues an armed robber are all police. The police are the people: some policemen have been proved to be serial killers, muggers, thieves, arsonists, serial rapists, and extortionists. There is nothing special about a person who puts on a blue uniform, straps a gun to his waist and goes out to walk around the city looking for trouble.

Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

Not only are police appearing to usurp the power of the judiciary, they are actively subverting it, with the support of legislators Asset forfeitures permit police to seize property for their own use without a trial. Policemen have in several instances acted as executioners or death squads. Warrants are routinely rubber stamped by the judiciary, particularly in areas where judges are elected and are fearful of the police union endorsing their opponents in elections.

The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

The hysterical zero tolerance policies, the high-visibility shows of force, the actions to “send a message to whatever malefactor is the target-du-jour” do not improve society, make it safer or more orderly. While they may make a splash that leads to more revenue from the legislature, in the end, they seriously damage the fabric of society. Police who engage in such destructive activities are in effect peeing in their water-well.

Police have to live in the same society that their enemies do. They should bear this in mind – for they are destroying it.

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