Principles of American Policing

May 1, 2015 Last Updated: April 24, 2016

Forty-five years ago, the spacecraft Apollo 13 and its crew were on their way to the moon. But, the mission was dramatically derailed with an oxygen tank explosion.

An immortalized distress call was radioed to mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Texas: “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

In order to survive, the astronauts had to courageously collaborate, plan, and sacrifice to return 200,000 miles safely to Earth.

America, We’ve Had a Problem Here

There are police–community tensions in America due to events in Baltimore, Ferguson, Cleveland, Staten Island, and North Charleston.

We must honestly assess the breakdown of trust and enhance police–community relations.
As learned from Apollo 13, we must collaborate, for failure is not an option.

Nine Principles of Policing

The principles of effective policing attributed to Sir Robert Peel for police–community relations are timeless.

The heart of these nine principles is summarized as a unity of effort “that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police.”

NYPD at Times Square on March 25, 2015. (Vincent J. Bove)
NYPD at Times Square on March 25, 2015. (Vincent J. Bove)

Peel also stresses “public approval of police existence, actions, and behavior and on police ability to secure and maintain public respect.”

Physical force is only necessary “when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public cooperation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of force necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.”

Police: Public Safety Lifelines

America would quickly decay into chaos, lawlessness, and anarchy without dedicated police protecting and serving our communities.

NYPD honor guard during National Anthem at the National Law Enforcement Associates holiday event at Chelsea Piers in New York on Dec. 12, 2014. (Vincent J. Bove)
NYPD honor guard during National Anthem at the National Law Enforcement Associates holiday event at Chelsea Piers in New York on Dec. 12, 2014. (Vincent J. Bove)

It is imperative to take a moment to highlight recent, inspiring, and commendable police actions including the following:

• New Jersey police save elderly woman from burning home
• Police in Cincinnati save woman who overdosed
• Oklahoma City police officer saves woman from drowning
• Pennsylvania police save life of suicidal man wielding box cutter
• Florida police save man from jumping off skyway
• Charleston police officer saves baby’s life
• Thousands mourn slain San Jose officer as hero

Contemporary Policing Principles

Although Sir Robert Peel’s Nine Policing Principles are timeless, contemporary issues demand principles complementing tradition while respecting current realities.

Therefore, I have developed Nine Principles of American Policing to enhance dialogue, communication, and trust between police and communities:

1. Being pro-police and pro-community are inseparable, indefatigable, and pre-eminent. Police must at all times remain fully committed to protecting and serving the public through character, ethics, and leadership that is total and wholehearted. Police must be guided by a moral compass that honors the community, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.
2. Respect must be the heart of the police and it must be unwavering for the profession, colleagues, and community. Respect can only be earned through integrity, accountability, and transparency. These qualities build trust, legitimacy, and collaboration.
3. Police deserve that every level of government provide the resources necessary for proper police staffing, training, and community service.
4. Initiatives enhancing police–community relations must continually be implemented and include citizen appreciation events, National Night Out, neighborhood block watches, and citizen police academies. Programs for youth, the future of the nation, are vital. These include school resource officers, youth police academies, character education, and mentoring initiatives.
5. Police deserve the latest and most effective technology to protect themselves and the public.
6. Moral courage must be encouraged, as police must be empowered make decisions that are legal, ethical, and moral.
7. Patriotism is mission-critical. Honoring America, our flag, and our military personnel must be part and parcel of the police officer’s creed and take place at every police event.
8. Police interventions must always be proportional, constitutional, and uphold quality of life issues deserved by all communities.
9. Police require a discerning recruitment process, education credentials, and ongoing training/certifications, including constitutional policing, diversity, civil rights, race-relations, violence prevention, community policing, crisis management, ethics, leadership, gangs, private security, and use of force.

Vincent J. Bove
Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com