The Crime Prevention Website


The underpinning principles for policing in England and Wales, taken from HMIC’s Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2013/14

Sir Robert Peel became Home Secretary in 1822 and in 1829 established the first full-time, professional and centrally-organised police force in England and Wales, for the Greater London area.

The reforms introduced by Sir Robert Peel and the first Police Commissioners were based on a philosophy that the power of the police comes from the common consent of the public, as opposed to the power of the state.

The nine principles that underpin this philosophy were set out in the ‘General Instructions’ issued to every new police officer from 1829 onwards. The principles are still valid today and have shaped the approach that HMIC takes when assessing how well police forces are working for the public.

These principles are:

  1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder
  2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions
  3. Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public
  4. The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force
  5. Police seek and preserve public favour not by pandering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law
  6. 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
  7. 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 on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence
  8. Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary
  9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it