The vast majority of the recognised professions are represented by one or more professional bodies that service their industries. Cioccarelli (2003), in an article of professionalisation, refers to a 1928 study by academic and social commentator, Professor A M Carr-Saunders, who examined the professionalisation process as it applied to a number of different occupations. In one part, Carr-Saunders states that:
“Professional associations are distinguished by the degree to which they seek to establish minimum qualifications for entrance into professional practice or activity, to enforce appropriate rules and norms of conduct among members of the professional group, and to raise the status of the professional group in the larger society.”
(cited in NSW Police News, Vol.83 No.11,2003, 31)
The concept of professionalisation is usually associated with a high level of education or skills and training, commitment to the idea of providing a quality service, adherence to certain standards of conduct and a commitment to update and improve skills and knowledge. Though professional bodies can be constituted in different ways, their essential function is to act as a guardian of standards. In fulfilling this function, a professional body for policing would pursue a range of policies aimed at both maintaining and enhancing standards in many areas of policing practice. For example, such a body could set minimum standards for entry. In other areas it may try to improve standards by identifying and disseminating examples of good practice, expanding provision for continuing professional development or commissioning research into policing methods. A professional body could potentially ‘add value’ by performing functions that are either not presently undertaken or undertaken to only a limited extent. For example, a professional body could encourage police practitioners to undertake coordinated continuing professional development addressing issues of national and international significance. Similarly, the development and promotion of Australasian practice standards and codes of ethics would promote consistent anti-corruption strategies. The ownership of a profession by its members is implicit in the raison d’etre of a professional body. Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon of Victoria Police in the 2002 John Barry Lecture at the University of Melbourne stated:
“Taken seriously, as a new level of policing capability, confident policing requires nothing less than…the development of new systems of occupational and collegiate regulation using mechanisms such as professional registration boards, professional institutes, and colleges of policing. This will provide our people with full ownership and responsibility for their professional standards of conduct and compliance with them.”
– Nixon 2002
In March 2005, the Australian and New Zealand Police Commissioners at the Police Commissioners’ Conference established a review into the professionalisation strategy. A working party was established and concluded that one of the key objectives necessary for the professionalisation of policing was the establishment of a professional body.
In considering the need for a professional body it is essential to broadly establish the roles that it may undertake.