A dialogical approach to the policing of protest and the balancing of human rights

Research Institution / Organisation

Liverpool John Moores University

Principal Researcher

Mike Smith

Level of Research


Project Start Date

September 2015

Research Context

The right to peacefully protest is an intrinsic part of a democratic society and embedded in UK history and tradition. A search of any newspaper will reveal a significant number of groups who are exercising their right to protest on a daily basis throughout the UK. The right to protest however is not absolute, and often is in competition with the rights of those upon whom the protest may impact, such as local residents and businesses.

The role of the police has been to manage this legislative balancing act, and this has not been without criticism. Significant critical reports published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, following the policing of the London G20 protests, brought marked changes to the police’s approach, and has subsequently resulted in a dialogical approach. At the forefront of this approach, mirroring a process of “dialogue policing” developed by the Swedish Police, has been the development and use of Police Liaison Teams (PLT), police officers who provide a “link between the police, protest organisers and protestors by focusing on negotiation, mediation, initiation, communication and sensing”.

Extending MRes research, the researcher examines this dialogical approach and considers the growth and development of the approach across the UK, common themes across different police forces, positive contributions into utilising this approach for all engaged in protests and lessons learned.

Research Methodology

Initial documentary research is being conducted to establish the historical and theoretical framework for the use of a dialogical approach.

Primary research data will then be gathered through semi-structured interviews with all who are affected, directly or indirectly, with a protest event. Three case studies have been identified from which to identify participants and collate data.


Participants will be selected from the following groups;

  • Police public order commanders 
  • PLT officers 
  • Members of protest groups 
  • Employees of businesses and organisations the subject of protest
  • Local residents

Observations will be conducted of selected events to provide a secondary source of data, compiled via field notes.

Interim reports and publications

Date due for completion

April 2019
Return to Research Map