Modern police forces are brimming with the latest high-tech innovations in policing and crime detection. But Canada’s forces are also built on a foundation of principles that date back almost 200 years.
Satyamoorthy Kabilan, director of National Security and Strategic Foresight, writing in a new report on the Conference Board of Canada website, says the principles of policing outlined by Sir Robert Peel back in 1829 still have a major influence on Canadian police forces today. He adds Canadians should be grateful that our forces recognize Peel’s principles “and the importance of working with their communities, which is a key reason why Canada’s police forces are highly regarded globally.”
Peel developed what are known as the “Peelian Principles” in Britain in the early 19th century in order to set guidelines for an ethical police force. The approach expressed in the principles as “policing by consent” was a response to public opposition for the British government’s plan to establish a police force in London. Under Peel’s principles, police officers are regarded as citizens in uniform and carry out their duties with the implicit consent of their fellow citizens.
Kabilan, who attended the 110th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) in Québec City Aug. 16-19, noted that in the conference’s opening ceremonies, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson spoke about Peel’s principles of policing. Kabilan writes, “This collaboration with communities is at the very heart of how policing in Canada is practised today,” adding that Paulson further emphasized the point by repeating Peel’s statement that “the police are the public and the public are the police.”
Kabilan goes on to explain it’s a timely topic in view of recent incidents in the U.S. which seem to have shaken citizens’ trust in their policing. He noted the matter of community policing came up again later in the conference when Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown, Commanding Officer of J Division in New Brunswick, spoke about how his force benefited from support from the community following the deaths of three members under his command in June 2014.
Lethbridge police have seen the same sort of public support here. In February 2011, while responding to a early-morning disturbance in the city, a Lethbridge regional police officer was assaulted by two men. He wound up in hospital with a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain, a broken nose and lacerations.
A police report indicated that a resident and his son who drove by the scene stopped to assist the injured officer until help arrived. A taxi driver also helped police by pointing out the direction in which the suspects fled, and the suspects were later apprehended.
Tom McKenzie, the police chief at the time, expressed gratitude for the show of support from citizens, noting, “It is very reassuring to know that our officers can count on citizens to help out in difficult situations. The foundation of community policing set out many years ago by Sir Robert Peel still holds true today.”
Programs such as Neighbourhood Watch are further examples of citizens helping to police their community.
It’s true that our local police forces are tasked with protecting the communities, but it’s also true that citizens can play an important role in that effort — and hence the “community” aspect of “community policing.”