The Professionalisation of Policing

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

THE PROFESSIONALISATION OF POLICING - Part 1 of 3

I have been following with interest the calls to defund policing. I can appreciate the anger and frustration of those making the statements. Countless agencies and officers have acknowledged the broken system and promised change..[1]

Change is coming, but what form should that change take?

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

In 2019 at the Society for Evidence-Based Policing conference, journalist/broadcaster Nick Ross - who coined the term “Crime Science” – and who has served on advisory boards for the National Police Chiefs Council in Britain said that “Policing today is where medicine was 150 years ago with blood-letting and leeches etc.” (Ross, 2019) He created a visible reaction with conference-goers who were clearly not in agreement. Still, I wonder what the response would be, were he to say that today?


In recent years, some police agencies have begun to adopt alternative models of delivering services, especially to those at acute risk and those with mental health issues. Estimates range widely about the number of police calls that have a mental health component, but most agree that half to three-quarters of police calls for service involve some sort of mental crisis. In response, there have been changes to the methods used to intervene with those suffering mental health crisis at street level. Hub models bring together experts from agencies across a broad spectrum of community supports (at my former service I built a team that was comprised of 25 different agencies and met twice a week to develop and implement intervention plans for individuals). We also created a Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team-MCRRT, that consisted of two front line officers and two front line social workers who dealt exclusively with mental health crisis calls. These two programs were, and still are, responsible for the saving of many lives.

But while the programs are very successful, limitations in available resources restrict the accessibility for those in need. Despite their success, there is still a requirement for a front-line response to emergent situations. So, while the programs are effective, front-line demands and program cost limit their numbers. Any model chosen by a community moving forward needs to ensure widespread adoption of these models. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the people doing the work. That is not something that can happen with the current paradigm.

after Sir Thomas Lawrence Baxter print, 1853
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Bt by George Baxter, [2]

In 1829, Sir Robert Peel penned the Metropolitan Police Act. The first few sentences read thusly,

“Whereas offences against property have of late increased in and near the Metropolis; and the local Establishments of Nightly Watch and Nightly Police have been found inadequate to the Prevention and Detection of Crime, by reason of the Unfitness of the Individuals employed, the Insufficiency of their number, the limited sphere of their authority and the Want of Connection and Cooperation with each other: and whereas it is expedient to substitute a new and more efficient system of police in lieu of such Establishments of Nightly Watch and Nightly Police…” (Peel, 1829)

In 1829, Sir Peel recognised the inadequacy of the current system to meet the needs of the community. The framer’s intent here is clear;

To prevent and detect crime through the creation of a formal police force of capable individuals, sufficient in number and with proper authority.

Where Peel to observe what is happening today, how would his new police act read? Would he recognise the significant departure from the original intent, the increase in mental health calls and the increasing threat of cyber-crime? Would he again say that current “police have been found inadequate to the prevention and detection of crime…” or would he recognise how society has changed, but the agencies charged with policing haven’t changed all that much? Would he too acknowledge the systemic issues of racism and toxic counterculture that have permeated the system he originally designed? Would he finish the opening with a call to expediently substitute a new and more efficient system?

I believe he would…and more.

I believe he would say it was time for policing to become a true profession. He would say it is time for a National College of Policing.


Part 2 - It's time for a National College of Policing can be found HERE.

Part 3 - The College of Policing can be found HERE

[1] In Canada to name a few who have acknowledged: Calgary, Edmonton, the RCMP and the Premier of Ontario. (Ward, 2020) (Slaughter, 2020) (Gibson, 2020)

[2] https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw38097/Sir-Robert-Peel-2nd-Bt


Works Cited in this Series

Gibson, V., 2020. iPolitics. [Online] Available at: https://ipolitics.ca/2020/06/11/ford-acknowledges-systemic-racism-in-police-argues-driving-efficiencies-different-from-cuts-to-police-budgets/ [Accessed 22 06 2020].

Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, 2011. Ministry of Colleges and Universities. [Online] Available at: http://tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/eopg/publications/OALCF_GPD_Apprenticeship_Oct_11.pdf [Accessed 22 06 2020].

Peel, S. R., 1829. A Bill Intituled - An Act for improving the Police in and near the Metropolis. London: s.n.

Ross, N., 2019. Society for Evidence Based Polcing Winter Conference 2019. London, England, Society for Evidence Based Policing.

Sherman, L., 2020. Heroes and Heartaches: Evidence-Based Policing of Rogue Cops. London, Society of Evidence Based Policing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO1HuXsccGQ.

Slaughter, G., 2020. CTV News. [Online] Available at: https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/lucki-acknowledges-systemic-racism-in-rcmp-1.4982165 [Accessed 22 06 2020].

Smith, R., 2020. LinkedIn. [Online] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6673630949739110401/ [Accessed 22 06 2020].

Tulloch, J. M., 2017. Report of the Independent Police Oversight Review, s.l.: Queens Printer for Ontario.

Ward, R., 2020. CBC News. [Online] Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-police-chiefs-systemic-racism-1.5610353 [Accessed 22 06 2020].

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