Safer resolution: Supporting officers and staff to manage conflict without force

Research Institution / Organisation

College of Policing

Principal Researcher

Julia Wire

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

July 2016

Research Context

​The College of Policing is piloting a new approach to developing guidance (known as Authorised Professional Practice). The guidance will be developed according to the process set out in the draft ‘Manual for developing authorised professional practice guidance’ (unpublished).
The guidance will provide recommendations for good practice, based on the best available evidence. This guidance will be primarily aimed at police officers and staff who have contact with the public, the Special Constabulary, PCSOs, designated detention officers, designated escort officers, designated investigation officers and police personal safety training leads. It may also be of relevance to force health and safety leads, as well as others who regularly deal with confrontation.

The overarching question this particular guidance will address is:
What makes it more or less likely that an officer/ staff member will resolve a potential conflict situation without relying on force?
The specific evidence review questions are:

  1. What is effective in managing conflict situations without the use of force?
  2. What increases or decreases the likelihood that a conflict situation will result in the use of force?

The guidance will focus on what is known about resolving interpersonal conflict situations without using force. The guidance will cover techniques and tactics to de-escalate and ‘slow down’ situations and reduce the need to use force. It will also highlight specific factors that may escalate or help contain potential conflict situations in order to support situational awareness and decision making.

The guidance will not include equipment, techniques or tactics that are available once the decision to use force has been taken. Such options include: restraint, conductive electronic devices (CED or Taser), spit hoods, equipment that can only be used by specialist officers (for example, firearms, police dogs/horses, baton rounds/AEP rounds). This guidance will not consider technical aspects and functionality of equipment.

Research Methodology

​Systematic review techniques were used to answer two questions.

  • What is effective in minimising the need to use force in conflict situations?

Context: To help reduce/prevent police injury by understanding what is effective to manage potential conflict situations arising from every day encounters with the members of the public without resorting to the use of physical force. Only randomised or strong quasi-experimental designs were included. The population of interest was police and other professionals who may have to routinely deal with conflict situations involving individuals (adult or child). The interventions of interest were conflict resolution techniques and strategies that do not involve use of physical force, and the focus was on everyday encounters. 

  • What increases or decreases the likelihood that a potential conflict situation will result in the use of force?

Context: To understand whether there are specific factors that can increase or decrease the likelihood of everyday police-public encounters resulting in the use of physical force by (or on) police officers. Systematic reviews and studies showing an association between one or more variables and the outcomes of interest were included. The population of interest was police-public interactions as a result of routine police activity.

Interim reports and publications

The guideline committee (GC) group is an independent advisory group that considers the evidence and develops the guideline recommendations.

Date due for completion

May 2019
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