Dialogue and police legitimacy among complainants during investigations of counter-terrorism officers: Tracking interaction between police authorities and citizens who complain

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Cambridge

In Collaboration With

Metropolitan Police Service

Principal Researcher

Paul Ford

Level of Research


Project Start Date

May 2020

Research Context

Key Research question: To what extent does exchange of views occur between police authorities and public complainants against counter-terrorism officers in the conduct and resolution of complaint investigations, and what opportunities may be missed in the process for building police legitimacy through dialogue?


  • Why is dialogue an important component of the theory and practice of building police legitimacy, and how does it relate specifically to police investigations of public complaints against police in general?

  • How does that general perspective translate into complaints against CT officers, and what kinds of activities in CT typically bring officers into contact with the public in ways that can be subject to complaint?

  • How does prior legitimacy research on CT help to inform this area of police practice?

This research aims to identify what recommendations can be made for possible changes in the protocols for investigating complaints against CT officers? What research agenda could be pursued to test the theory that procedures with more dialogue would create higher levels of legitimacy by the end of the investigative process?
If police can create greater legitimacy in the minds of people associated with potential or suspect terrorists, that could help the associates to restrain their family or friends from violent actions or anti-police views, which could in turn help to reduce terrorist violence.

Research Methodology

Research design: A theoretically-guided tracking study using quantitative and qualitative tracking of current practice, compared to legitimacy theory.
The researcher will gather the following information:

  • How many complaints were filed against approximately 2,500 members of Counter Terrorism Command of the MPS in 2017-182

  • How many of these investigations were completed and closed within 3,6, and 12 months? 

  • How do the slow cases compare to the not-slow cases and to what extent is the delay caused by an attempt to create dialogue, or by an absence of dialogue in some way? 

  • In the final sample, what percentage of cases included one or more form of dialogue?

  • In the final sample, what percentage of cases led to an appeal, and how many appeals were filed with each possible institutional process (IOPC, MPS, lawsuit)?

  • Of the cases which led to an appeal, what percentage of them included any dialogue in the course of the investigation, and how does that compare to cases that were not appealed? 

  • In cases in which no dialogue occurred, what sampling principle would work best for an intensive review of the missed opportunities for dialogue? 

  • Selecting 3 to 5 examples, what does a case study of each example show about missed opportunities to inject dialogue into the process, and how much police investigative time would it take to insert that dialogue?

Interim reports and publications

‚ÄčNot available

Date due for completion

March 2021
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