When Sir Robert Peel decided to form the first London Metropolitan Police Department, 1829 he wanted to recruit the best men that the city had to offer. While serving as England’s Home Secretary he was responsible for reorganizing the criminal and penal codes. This resulted in the passing of the Metropolitan Police Act, which established the first professional police force in Great Brittan.
It was in the local newspapers and neighborhoods that he posted the announcement below.
“I want you for PEELS’ Police”
You must be aged between 23-40 years of age.
You will be paid the following rates:
CONSTABLE – 17 shillings per week *
SERGEANT – 1 pound l shilling per week.
SUPERINTENDENT – 3 pounds 10 shillings per week.
CHIEF CONSTABLE – 13 pounds 10 shillings per week.
* Note: (20 Shillings equals 1 Pound, today $1.50 USD…..much less then !!)
Working hours will be eight ten or twelve hour shifts, seven days a week. No rest days are allowed and only one week holiday per annum, unpaid.
Every encouragement will be given to officers to grow beards as shaving is regarded as unhealthy. However beards must not exceed two inches in length.
Uniform will be worn at all times to prevent accusations of spying on the public whilst in ordinary clothes. A duty band will be worn to indicate whether or not you are on duty.
You are NOT allowed to vote in elections.
You must NOT gossip with the public. In particular avoid conversations with female servants or other women on duty. Do not walk or converse with your comrades, merely exchange a word and pass on. You will walk about 20 miles per shift.
No meal breaks are allowed. The top hat may be used to hold a snack. You must inform the Superintendent before you associate, eat or drink with any civilians. You are NOT allowed to sit down in public houses at any time.
Before attending for medical examination and interview to join the police, it is advisable to have a bath.
You must expect a hostile reception from all sections of the public and be prepared to be assaulted, stoned or stabbed in the course of your duties.
With the exception of the last sentence (in bold), a lot has changed in the manner and mode of policing! I would venture to say, that 175 years ago, Robert Peel never envisioned the height of lawlessness that law enforcement has to deal with in today’s world. Perhaps that is why the local Police Constable in London today does not carry a firearm. Given what is currently happening in Europe, that too may soon change. But here in the United States, we have a proliferation of firearms, legal and illegal, that sometimes rivals the best firearms that are issued to our police officers, to protect themselves and the citizens in their charge. But defensive weapons are only tools in a box, to be used only when appropriate and necessary, in order to do the job.
While most ordinary citizens and groups in our nation respect the police and their profession, sadly, there are those who do not. Support for law enforcement must first come from the citizens themselves, and those they elect to insure support through official legislation. One of Peel’s “Nine Principles of Policing” states: “The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured, diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.”
In my view, no amount of money can be enough to pay someone, who leaves his or her family and home in the morning or evening, straps on a duty belt, dons a vest, and wonders whether they will be able to return to that home safe and sound when the shift is done! That’s what 99% of police officers do, day in and day out, in all kinds of weather conditions, placing themselves in harms’ way to protect all of us from violence and danger. Indeed, it is time for ordinary citizens to speak up, and speak out, when police officers become targets for vile rhetoric and abuse by individuals and factions, whose only motive is to create discord and disharmony, and undermine our justice system. Why does it take the Line of Duty Death of a police Officer to bring out public displays of support? Why not display honor and pride for law enforcement when we are all calm and secure?
I am reminded of the words of a former President of the United States, who was also once a Police Commissioner for New York City Police Department. In speaking of officers, who have done difficult things under difficult circumstances, he said;” “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows, in the end, triumph of high achievement; and at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” And in speaking about the role and dignity of the police profession, he said: “ No man is worth his salt, who is not ready at all times to risk his body, to risk his well-being, to risk his life in a great cause.”… “Far and away the best prize that life offers, is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Truly, in law enforcement we are all doing God’s work, and that indeed, is work worth doing!
This article is dedicated to the Memory of NYPD Officers Ramos and Liu.