Who pays for public policing?: Exploring the shifting boundaries of responsibility for the provision of ‘public’ policing

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Leeds

In Collaboration With

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire

Principal Researcher

Stuart Lister

Level of Research


Project Start Date

November 2014

Research Context

​At a time of significant budget cuts to police forces in England and Wales the boundaries of responsibility for who pays for ‘public policing’ are being renegotiated, recast and increasingly contested. This project will explore how these changes are unfolding and with what effect, during a time when demands on the public police far outstrip their capacity to respond. It will examine how the so-called principle of ‘polluter pays’ is being applied to the provision of police services in an era of financial austerity. This principle asserts that those private sector organisations whose commercial activities give rise to demand for policing are charged with responsibility for contributing to the costs of policing the crime and disorder consequences of their activities. At the same time, the police have been both enabled (under the 1994 Police and Magistrates’ Court Act) and encouraged to generate external income through schemes that include charging more widely for goods and services. This study will illuminate, descriptively, conceptually and normatively, the shifting nature of responsibilities between the state and the market in the delivery of contemporary forms of policing and security.

The study will focus on three different functional and spatial contexts (football matches, mass attendance leisure events, and the night-time economy) that regularly generate exceptional demands on the police, particularly for a visible and uniformed ‘frontline’ presence. Within these contexts the study will explore: (1) the national extent of privately paid public policing arrangements; (2) the nature, limits and boundaries of the service purchased in terms of what is (and what is not) being paid for; (3) the institutional opportunities and challenges presented by the contractual specifications of these market-based initiatives, both to the purchaser and the provider; and (4) the normative implications that arise from the buying and selling of policing as a public good.

Research Methodology

​The project design encompasses three distinct scales. First, at the ‘macro’ level, national data will be collected on the extent and nature of ‘paid public policing’ initiatives, enabling them to be mapped. These data will generate important contextual information, revealing for instance both the approximate amount of income generated by the police (per year) from these initiatives, but also nationally the scale of resource the police service as a whole is required to commit to their provision.
Second, at the ‘mezzo’ level, data will be collected from West Yorkshire Police to explore how these arrangements are governed, negotiated and delivered at the institutional level. This will involve documentary analyses and interviews with senior and middle managers both in the police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Interview data will also be collected from individual purchasers and/or representatives of groups of purchasers (e.g. pub-watch chairs; leisure group executives, licenses, football club representatives, music festival organisers).
Third, at the ‘micro’ level, data will be collected from a paid policing initiative within West Yorkshire, allowing an exploration of how the initiative has functioned over time, mapping and explaining any changes and continuities to its terms of reference and legal requirements, as well as exploring points of consensus and/or conflict that have emerged between the purchasers and providers. This scale of analysis will enable interviews to be conducted with those who have operational responsibility in the police for delivering on the contractual requirements of the initiative. It will also allow interviews with those on the purchasing side of the arrangement that will explore expectations, perceptions and understandings of how the initiative is ‘working’ in the enacted environment of policing and security provision.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

September 2018
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