(Note to visitors: I am not American and this is not an American blog. Please check your cultural assumptions!)
How many of these fundamental principles of policing (emphases mine) are the police in Ferguson still following, either in practice or even just to the extent of paying lip service?
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*.
It seems to me that if they’re not committed to the Peelian principles, then they’re not a police force: they’re something else. And the mind-set of a gendarme is not the mind-set of a police officer; it’s the mind-set of a soldier at war.
(Footnote: Yes, I am aware of the role of racism in determining the unadmitted objectives of American policing, and I believe I know what current events in Ferguson are really about (warning: dark humor alert). But what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander and even if you’re not a member of one of the cultures on the receiving end of the jackboot today, the fact that the jackboot exists means that it may be used against you in future. Beware of complacency and apathy; even if you think you are protected by privilege, nobody is immune. See also Martin Niemoller.)