Nearly 200 years after Robert Peel set up the Metropolitan Police, the London force is in special measures. It is not alone. Six out of the UK’s 48 police forces are under official scrutiny by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate.

Pictures of officers pinning down and handcuffing a woman attending a Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard – murdered by a policeman – represented a nadir for the Met. They were also the beginning of the end for Commissioner Cressida Dick.

Dick’s replacement, Sir Mark Rowley, has the daunting task of turning the Met around and putting an end to the force’s embarrassing run of failures (including the Everard case, sexist and racist behaviour, officers taking selfies with murdered women, and the strip search of a 14-year-old schoolgirl).

Sir Mark says: “Our mission is to lead the renewal of policing by consent which has been so heavily dented in recent years as trust and confidence have fallen.” His words echo the founding principles laid down by Peel, and perhaps the guidelines of the 19th century now point to a way forward.

Peel was very clear that there was to be no “them” and “us” when it came to the police-and-people relationship: law officers were to be seen as members of the public in uniform, and their authority to act was to rely upon mutual respect between them and the population.

As far as today’s women and ethnic minorities are concerned, this mutual respect with the police seems to be in a critical condition.

The “trust and confidence” and “policing by consent” referred to by Sir Mark are distinctly Peelian principles. Other original fundamentals were impartiality, only using physical force when absolutely necessary, and no role for officers in judgment or vengeance. And an overarching principle was that police effectiveness should not be measured in the number of arrests being made, but on the lack of crime.

Research – not for the first time – recently underlined the fact that visible police patrols cut violent crime. Patrols in “hotspot” areas in Bedfordshire reduced it by 38%, and a similar pilot scheme by Essex Police showed a reduction of 74%.

It’s hardly a revelation that old-fashioned methods work. But it may need someone like Sir Mark to restore them. He is said to favour improved neighbourhood policing and community relations, as well as zero tolerance for staff who break the rules. He will probably also have to address the shortage of experienced officers due to past cuts.

Community policing, in which officers become familiar faces in a neighbourhood and counter mistrust, is an established practice that may have a yet more important role in future.

But, familiar or not, bobbies on the beat or in their cars are no panacea. Something Robert Peel could not have foreseen is that, according to the Office for National Statistics, we are now 35 times more likely to be affected by cybercrime than by physical robbery. And that is a huge challenge facing the Met – and almost every other police force in the world.

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