Thursday, 12 June 2008

Principles and the Police

Stephen Franks, a prospective member of parliament later this year, raises the issue of basing the police role on the public support by reference to the founding fathers of London's Metropolitan police. He does so with typically inflammatory language imputing cowardice and other shameful behaviour to police and ambulance staff. Although his politics and attitudes may be an anathema, it is worth considering what society expects of its police service. Interestingly Stephen Franks drops a few of Richard Mayne's principles from his extract:
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.
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.
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.

These are, of course, as relevant as the others.
Unfortunately the time has long gone when the 'Met' has widespread public support and it certainly avoids such detailed principles in current operations but a challenge to the New Zealand Police Commissioner Howard Broad is to identify what he thinks the police should be doing and how well he thinks it is doing it. Unlike most other large organisations, the police do not publish a 'vision statement' or even its operating principles against which the day to day operational success may be measured.
Our politicians and representatives will serve us best by working out what the principles for the Police should be and encouraging support for the front-line staff.

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