In this blog, I outline the ‘9 Peelian Principles’ of UK policing and the relevance of force PEEL inspections for aspiring Sergeants, Inspectors, and Chief Inspectors. In a subsequent blog, I’ll expand on the PEEL inspections which these principles inspire, including recent PEEL report summary videos from the mass I’ve now published on my free Rank Success YouTube channel.

“The police are the public and the public are the police.” – Peelian Principle

Origins of the Peelian Principles

“The time is come, when… we may fairly pronounce that the country has outgrown her police institutions.” – Robert Peel in Parliament 1828, arguing for a new model of policing

This information may not be new for experienced cops who are familiar with UK policing history. However, it’s worth recapping and assessing in the context of your police leadership and promotion aspirations. Particularly because these principles form the basis of both the behavioural framework used for promotions (currently the CVF), plus also Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) police force ‘PEEL’ inspections. More on those later…

For context, the ‘Peelian Principles’ were defined nearly 200 years ago. The principles were defined by Sir Robert Peel, who used them in the founding of the Metropolitan Police Service in 1829. Hence, they’re referred to as ‘Peelian’. There are nine principles in total, and these are considered the bedrock of our UK ‘policing by consent’ model, as lessons from implementation in the Met spread across the country.

When seeking promotion and in researching information about your own force in preparation, it is helpful to understand a little about this history. That’s because much of today’s policing values, goals, oaths, and ultimate legitimacy in the eyes of the public derives from these ethical foundations of the UK’s first professionalised police force.

Such an understanding may help you connect with whatever the ‘flavour of the month’ competency framework is in place. It can also raise your awareness and understanding of the role. Well-prepared promotion candidates can even use them to anticipate or generate practice promotion board questions.

The Peelian principles might even fundamentally connect you emotionally back to policing. For example, why you joined in the first place and why you now want promotion. Such things can also inspire you to talk authentically in connecting your experience and articulating your ambition at a promotion board!

What Are the 9 Peelian Policing Principles?

The 9 Peelian Principles

“Ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.” – Peelian Principle

So, what exactly are the nine Peelian Principles? Most will have heard brief phrases quoted, such as ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’, or ‘policing by consent’. However, it’s useful to understand where these were founded and the fuller explanations. This provides a solid grounding for both how far we’ve come and how little has changed in nearly 200 years of policing!

I outline each Peelian principle below, where you’ll hopefully recognise their timeless nature and relevance to well-publicised issues surrounding policing today. In addition, I’ve highlighted key points and phrases to prompt your thinking about how your own promotion evidence might relate:

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.

Now let’s look at the 9 Peelian Principles’ relevance to policing and promotion / police leadership today…

Sergeant Inspector promotion guide

How do the 9 Peelian Principles Relate to UK Policing Now?

Women police officers

“The power of police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions, and behaviour.” – Peelian Principle

These 9 Peelian Principles are clearly timeless in their relevance to policing. What did you take from reading them fully? Consider for example how officers respond bravely to all kinds of incidents, whether defending others against terrorism or meticulously investigating human trafficking to protect the vulnerable. Then read again the principle that inspires such bravery, ‘the ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life’.

Where else can you envisage these Peelian Principles apply in policing today? Below are some more examples of how these founding principles play out in modern policing. In support of your CPD, you may wish to consider them alongside my bespoke free policing PESTLE; particularly helpful for anticipating Inspector promotion board questions and scenarios!

CVF Values: When seeking promotion to Sergeant, Inspector, or beyond, you will be assessed on your values. The national Competency and Values Framework (CVF) defines the core policing values as: Public Service, Integrity, Impartiality and Transparency. Some forces choose to tailor their CVF values, for example Police Scotland and the Met Police. In the Met, even the value of ‘Integrity’ is described differently to the national CVF value of ‘Integrity’!

The Peelian Principles can help make these sometimes-abstract CVF descriptors more meaningful. You’ll then better explain in your own authentic way perhaps when, how and why you have demonstrated these behaviours; for example in responding verbally to promotion interview questions.

Oath and attestation: Below are the oaths sworn by officers in England & Wales (and other UK territorial police forces such as British Transport Police and MoD Police), Police Scotland, and PSNI. They differ slightly, but the values and principles are clear throughout. Read this document on the office of constable for further principles relevant to police officers today.

England & Wales oath: “I do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.”

Police Scotland oath: “I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of constable with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, and that I will uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all people, according to law.”

Police Service of Northern Ireland oath: “I hereby do solemnly and sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all individuals and their traditions and beliefs; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof according to law.”

Strategic Review of Policing: Threaded throughout this year’s publication of the Strategic Review of Policing by the Police Foundation are the Peelian Principles and approach. These founding values are a common theme of the report and relate to many of its recommendations.

Performance and measures of success: One could argue that policing generally would do well to revisit Principle 9 when reviewing performance and setting strategic objectives. By the way, strategy and performance will be concepts you’ll more frequently encounter in the more strategic rank of Inspector.
Legitimacy: Whether it’s stop and search equality, use of force, or inclusion, the legitimacy of the UK’s professional policing has persisted since the founding of the Met Police. Legitimacy comes down to our policing by consent and is articulated throughout all the principles. Enduring issues for example include whether policing is representative and inclusive of our communities at all leadership levels (particularly in the face of changing demographics); whether responses to various public protests are proportionate and impartial to the cause (be it Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, Anti-Vaccine Passports, or more recently Insulate Britain and other environmental groups); and police use of force, particularly in an age where officer actions are broadcast on social media in minutes.
Professional standards of behaviour: Police officers are expected to uphold higher standards of behaviour than the general public, to in turn impartially uphold law and order themselves. When it goes wrong, it’s well-publicised and public confidence suffers. For example, the knock-on effects from reports of sexual misconduct and misogyny from male officers severely dents trust and confidence in the police from women; in turn, potentially reducing confidence in reporting sexual assault and/or general reduced cooperation with investigations. Upholding standards and integrity are key to police leadership positions.
Code of Ethics: The Peelian Principles read like an early version of the police Code of Ethics (COE). It is essential reading, especially for aspiring promotion candidates and expands further on expected standards of behaviour, including honesty and integrity. They also provide insights and meaning to the CVF values, which is why I present them within my CVF infographic. The COE will also help prompt your thinking around when you have demonstrated such behaviours in the past, or how you would do so in future-based questions and scenarios.

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no-one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis

Force PEEL Inspection Frameworks

The Peelian Principles clearly underpin how England and Wales police forces are inspected and assessed by HMIC (or HMICS in Scotland). PEEL stands for Police Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Legitimacy.

Your force PEEL report is helpful reading if you aspire to promotion, especially at the rank of Inspector or above. However, most officers in my experience are completely unfamiliar with their force PEEL assessments. Therefore, it offers a potentially unfair advantage for promotion candidates who take the initiative to include their own force PEEL assessment as a part of wider preparation for promotion opportunities. 

I’ll cover PEEL more in-depth next time, including summary performance by force, thematic area, and showcasing some recent force highlights. For now, see below one of my typical summary videos of the recent PEEL inspection of Thames Valley Police. I hope you find this and others on my YouTube channel helpful to your police promotion preparation. Watch this space for more…

Kind Regards, Steve

If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend or download my Police Promotion Masterclass, or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videoseGuidesa podcast, plus free blog content both here and via my Police Hour guest articles.

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