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Metropolitan Police Service

About policing

What is a police force?

Typically, a police force (made up of officers and staff) represents the civil authority of government and is responsible for:

  • Maintaining public order and safety, including protection of life and property
  • Enforcing the law, including preservation of the peace
  • Preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities

These core functions are known as policing, and the approach is commonly called "policing by consent".

Policing by consent

In the British model of policing, officers use their powers to police with the implicit consent or permission of the public (that's you), often referred to as "Policing by consent."

This approach was set out by Sir Robert Peel in 1829 when he established the Metropolitan Police, the first official police force in England. Peel understood from the get-go that, in terms of numbers alone, any police force would always be inferior so could not hope to enforce the law effectively without the consent of the public.

For example, if the public were to become aggressive or violent - preventing the police the opportunity to do their duty - it would be impossible for them to do so. Peel believed it was essential for a police force to operate and behave ethically, retaining the trust of the public at all times.

Peelian principles | Wikipedia
Definition of policing by consent | Home Office | FOI release | 10 Dec 2012
Law enforcement in the United Kingdom | Wikipedia

MPS does not say what it does and why this matters

The MPS doesn’t say what it does on its website. Its vision and values page is helpful to a point, but if a service does not or cannot say what it does apart from a "mission is to keep London safe for everyone", it's difficult to see from where its mission, vision, standards and behaviours can flow from.

Following the Casey Review and other damning reports about MPS, this matters because actually saying what it does - in clear and simple terms - would be a good start for Londoners as MPS seeks to restore a measure of trust and confidence in its service.

On a marginally brighter note, the MPS Community Engagement Handbook 2022 says that "... the early days of the Met officers knew that they had a duty to maintain the trust and confidence of the public through guiding principles known as General Instructions."

Even if you know that the Handbook exists, the Instructions are complicated, confusing and wordy:

  • To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Community Engagement Handbook 2022 | MPS
Law enforcement in the United Kingdom | Wikipedia
Police UK (England and Northern Ireland)
Scotland UK
Republic of Ireland

Booklets and leaflets
Check out our SHOP at GMHC.CO.UK where single copies of our booklets and leaflets are FREE:

  • Rights on Arrest | A6 booklet, 12 pages
  • Overdoses and calling 999 | A6 leaflet diagram | 4 pages

UK police forces and crime commissioners

List of police forces of the United Kingdom | Wikipedia
UK Police and Crime Commissioners | Police UK

What does a police officer do

The College of Policing says that a police officer

  • Protects the public from violence
  • Provides a reassuring presence in the community
  • Supports victims of crime and offer help to those who have witnessed crimes
  • Investigates complex crimes using a mixture of cutting-edge technology and time-proven traditional methods

Police officer | College of Policing

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