Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

The police are the public and the public are the police

I recall very early in my police recruit training being introduced to the policing principles of Sir Robert Peel. As a new police recruit I didn’t have the context to understand how these principles guided and legitimised policing service delivery to the community, particularly the words “the police are the public and the public are the police”.  My 30 years of policing experience has brought these principles to life, particularly in my recent role focussed on curriculum reform approach to building Victoria Police cultural capability.

Listening to the international police experiences of my program colleagues has at times been confronting and left me saddened, particularly where there are clear violations of human rights. The clear role of police is to protect human rights. Good practical legislation will ensure there is a balance between human rights and the need to protect our community from harm. Community support and the legitimacy of policing will only be established where police enforce this legislation in a transparent manner and without bias. Inevitably, there will be conflict between community and the police. But conflict can generally be resolved with a complaint resolution process that instils public confidence.

Nonetheless, police have been given authority to limit human rights. In doing so, there is a clear community expectation police will only limit human rights as a last resort and use force that is not disproportionate in the circumstances. A significant trust and accountability comes with this authority, with any abuse having the potential to undermine the legitimacy of policing in the eyes of community. The legitimacy of policing is critical in securing the willing cooperation of the community, not only in the observance of laws, but to investigate crime and contribute to resolving complex social issues such as violence against woman and children and intimate partner violence.

I am humbled that my program colleagues have been willing to share the policing experiences of their communities. Like most institutions, the policing institution is diverse. This program has provided me a unique opportunity to represent policing, but also reflect upon the diversity of policing as an institution, the impact of policing within an international context and the critical role police play in peace building. I am proud to have committed 30 years to an organisation that is willing to invest in and build a peace building capability, an investment in the Center for Peace Studies program that has now spanned 6 years and 5 participants.


Andrew Miles – Australia

Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 22


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This entry was posted on March 1, 2017 by and tagged , , , , .
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