PoliceLiveLeakIn the spring, months before Michael Brown was shot and Ferguson erupted in reaction, whoever writes New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton's blog for him posted, "In my long police career I have often drawn inspiration from a great hero of mine, Sir Robert Peel. Peel founded the London Metropolitan Police in 1829." The post listed the nine "Peelian Principles" attributed (probably spuriously) to the founder of modern policing and formulated to combat crime in a rapidly modernizing city. The principles are remarkable both for the high ideals to which they aspire, and the minimal resemblance they bear to the actual forces over which Bratton and his counterparts around the United States actually preside.

The background to the principles is no mystery. Peel and friends wanted to consolidate London's constables, night watchmen, and police forces in the growing city. But "people were suspicious of a large force, possibly armed," the U.K.'s National Archives
 note. "They feared it could be used to suppress protest and support military dictatorship." People feared this because the army had been used to do exactly that. In addition to the guiding principles, the police were given blue uniforms to distinguish them from military red. They originally weren't even allowed to vote to minimize their influence over government policies.Given the grim reality of law enforcement in today's America, it's hard to believe anything like those ideals could ever be met.
Interestingly, Bratton's version of the first principle reads, "The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder." But the original version says, "To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment." Maybe New York City's police commissioner drew from an altered-by-repetition version of the principles. Or maybe he just had difficulty seeing modern armored vehicle-riding, assault rifle-toting, police as an alternative to military force.