The bedrock of modern day British policing
Foreword by Jan Berry,
Chairman of the
Police Federation of England and
The Office of Constable has evolved over the centuries and the ‘British Bobby’ is recognised across the world, but what is it that makes it so special, so endearing, so different?
There is, as this pamphlet seeks to set out, a legal status, being the holders of an Office, the coercive powers that come with that
Office. There are also the high standards and restrictions placed on our professional and private lives.
But what is at its heart, and why does it remain a recognised and trusted brand leader around the world? Why does it conjure up feelings of safety and security, and why do the public want to see more
‘bobbies’? Why do those of us who hold this proud Office of Constable go forward into dangers when others go back?
Main cover picture: istockphoto.com
The answer is simple; it’s about integrity, impartiality, and most importantly, political independence. It is the tie breaker, the ultimate check and balance in our democracy to protect against a tyrannical abuse of power.
The imposition of targets and the employment of non-sworn staff in operational policing roles are slowly eroding the Office of Constable. It is a proud and honourable Office and one which I have had the honour to hold for
“Where is this Office
The above quotation is not made up. It was actually said by a Member of
Parliament upon hearing the term the
Office of Constable.
The Police Federation is always quick to raise the merits of the Office of Constable.
But in view of the above quote, what does it mean to those outside the police service?
Where does the Office of Constable originate from, and is it as important today as it was two centuries ago?
This pamphlet takes a look at the Office of
Constable – what it is, what its values are, what it means for the police service today, and gives a summary history which shows how the Office of Constable is not only the bedrock of traditional policing but also the platform for any change required for modern day policing.
The independent Office of Constable operates within, and is accountable to, the rule of law. The rule of law is the principle that no one is above the law. Perhaps the most important application of the rule of law is the principle that government authority is legitimately exercised only in accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws adopted and enforced in accordance with established procedural steps. The principle of the rule of law is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance.
The law must be accessible, intelligible, clear and predictable and must apply equally to all. It must also afford adequate protection of fundamental human rights. It is the independent and impartial holder of the Office of Constable who is tasked with upholding and enforcing the law.
Whilst the rule of law binds our society together, of equal importance is the
of Constable – is it in the Home Office?” separation of power, which prevents over-concentration of power in any one institution. At one level this reflects the legislature, the executive, the judiciary.
In the case of policing, politicians
– democratically elected – make the laws, police officers enforce them, and the judiciary decides on the outcome post-charge. However, we are each independent and separately accountable.
Operational independence is a guiding principle of policing.
“I hold it to be the duty of the Commissioner of Police, as it is of every chief constable, to enforce the law of the land. He must take steps so to post his men that crimes may be detected; and that honest citizens may go about their affairs in peace.
“He must decide whether or not suspected persons are to be prosecuted; and, if need be, bring the prosecution or see that it is brought; but in all…