The Role and Evolution of Policing in the UK


The purpose of the police service in the UK is to uphold the stipulated law firmly and fairly. This is in order to prevent cases associated with crime; to pursue; to bring to justice, individuals that break the law; to protect, assist and reassure the entire community; to enforce the queen’s peace; to be seen to be doing all the aforementioned with integrity, sound judgement, as well as common sense (Crawford, 2012). Notably, the purpose statement regarding the police service has been adopted in the UK since 1990, and it essentially reflects of the policing principles of Peel, which were devised in during the 1820s. Although, whilst the purpose of the police service has since time immemorial remained unchanged, it is evident that there are various factors, which consequentially resulted into dramatic changes in the activities of the police. These are based on the contexts in which they took place in the course of the second half of the 20th C and also at the start of the 21st C (Collier, 2006).


Significant to note, the primary role of the police in England and Wales is to protect human life and property, preserve peace, and prevent ad detect any form of criminal offence. Based on the British policing model, it is evident that the officers are obligated to exercise the powers bestowed to them to the police with implicit public consent. In other words, this is referred to as ‘policing by consent’ and it expresses the significant legitimacy of policing that should be presented in the eyes of the general public (Jackson et al., 2012). It is often put in place, based on a general consensus of support, which follows a form of transparency regarding the powers of the police, their integrity towards exercising the powers bestowed on them, as well as their accountability in doing so.

Clearly, the role of the police today (21st C) is broader as compared to how it has been in the previous centuries. This is owing to the following: First, there has been a high rise of crime levels in the course of the second half of the 20th C. Secondly, the categorization of the increased number of incidents that relate to criminal offences has increased. Thirdly, there has been a great impact on various changes in the society. Fourthly, there has been an emergence of various technological advances of the criminality patterns and finally, there is a steady growth in the rate of police involvement, especially in multi-agency agency approaches towards public protection (Hope, 2005). In order for the police in England and Wales to be able to fulfil their role effectively, greater clarity on their mission is required, and this is inclusive of their responsibilities.

Notably, recent reviews of various policing aspects are noted not to have gone far and as such, there is need for an independent review like a Royal Review that can significantly what is required of the police to do and how they ought to do it. This review needs to be focused and also time limited, to provide the police in England and Wales with clarity regarding their role (Crawford, 2012). Notably, the police in England and Wales are into a partnership activity at every local levels, in order to effectively prevent and protect the public against cases of crime. However, they are not expected to fill the gaps that are left, owing to lack of capacity of the statutory or community organization. As such, the agencies that are involved in such partnership work ought to be accountable for delivery (Collier, 2006).

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Collier, P. M. (2006). In search of purpose and priorities: Police performance indicators in England and Wales. Public Money and Management, 26(3), 165-172.

Crawford, A. (2012). Plural policing in the UK: policing beyond the police. In Handbook of policing (pp. 175-209). Willan.

Hope, T. (2005). The new local governance of community safety in England and Wales. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 47(2), 369-388.

Jackson, J., Bradford, B., Stanko, B., & Hohl, K. (2012). Just authority?: Trust in the police in England and Wales. Willan.

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