Liaison-based approaches to public order policing: An ethnographic study into police use of dialogue

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Leeds

In Collaboration With

Metropolitan Police Service

Principal Researcher

Ashley Kilgallon

Level of Research


Project Start Date

October 2015

Research Context

To examine the value of dialogue during the police-citizen interaction process in the maintenance of public order.

The role of dialogue within public order policing has recently gained momentum within academia. Traditionally, public order policing has taken the form of paramilitary tactics – units of officers working together to robustly quell developing signs of disorder. Here, one can see a reliance on escalated force as opposed to negotiated management. Whilst recognising the utility of these robust tactics in context specific settings, this thesis will suggest that public order policing should be considered in a far more complex and dynamic manner, requiring a variety of ideologically different tactical options.

The G20 protests in 2009, the subsequent policy reforms – Adapting to Protest - and the introduction of the Police Liaison Teams (PLTs) demonstrate a symbolic movement towards an occupational desire for increased use of dialogue within public order policing. However, despite these policy changes, there is limited research focused on whether dialogue within public order policing is actually an effective tool to be operationally utilised. As a result, there is a gap in knowledge about how front line officers have adapted their behaviour to meet the requirements of the policy change; what the attitudes are of front line officers to the approach; and, how increased dialogue fits within the wider cultures of public order policing. This thesis aims to bridge this knowledge gap.

Research Methodology

Owing to the unique partnership structure of this research, with unprecedented access granted to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), this thesis will be ethnographic, with long-term immersion into their public order unit. It will focus on gaining new insights into how public order policing works on the front line, from the perspective of officers who are openly encouraged to engage in extensive dialogue with crowd members. In addition to this, back-stage meetings - such as Silver briefings - will also be attended in order to gain insight in the strategic aims of public order operations. To support the ethnographic work interviews will also be conducted with senior policing leaders, key Police Liaison Officers, Level Two trained officers and Territorial Support Group officers.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

December 2018
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