When Sir Robert Peel created the first civil police force in 1829, he clearly envisioned the service as a craft and not a profession. The tasks assigned to these forerunners of modern policing were in the gritty business of keeping the public peace and bringing thieves and other law breakers to justice. In fact, Peel designed the starting pay scales so low to ensure that men accustomed to a gentile life would not be attracted. (A condition that later triggered the first police strike.) In a letter to the Duke of Wellington sometime after the launch of the Metropolitan Police, Peel revealingly said,
“The chief danger of the failure of the new system will be: If it is made a job, if gentlemen’s servants and so forth are placed in the higher offices.”
Sir Robert, I believe, would have been in sympathy with the view that policing is more an art than a science, more a craft than a profession. Once at odds, today these positions are approaching convergence. Science and technology increasingly dictate the structure and the tools of everyday policing. Educated people are needed to understand these new conditions and carry out the functions. A professional attitude towards the work is a public expectation. But the practice of policing, while now using highly technical and scientific tools, remains very much an art.