Pandemic Policing: public attitudes towards compliance and organisational resilience

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Portsmouth

In Collaboration With

Dr Paul Smith, Dr Rob Inkpen (University of Portsmouth) and Hampshire Constabulary.

Principal Researcher

Dr Sarah Charman

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

June 2020

Research Context

The UK’s COVID-19 response has provided the police with new powers which potentially impinge upon civil liberties, altering the nature of policing activities. National policing bodies have encouraged a compliance not coercion approach based upon the 4 E’s of Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce. In an innovative collaboration between the University of Portsmouth and Hampshire Constabulary, this research considers the impact of pandemic policing on the police and the public. It seeks to analyse the experiences of police officers and police leaders in exceptional circumstances and to explore the physical and psychological challenges of pandemic policing. This knowledge will provide evidence
of i) organisational resilience, risk identification and effective decision-making, ii) strategies for the maintenance of future service delivery and iii) the impact of pandemic policing on police wellbeing.

The research will also consider how the worldviews of individuals influence their perceptions of COVID-19 restrictions, their willingness to comply and key drivers of compliance/non-compliance which will shape the medium-long term police response. This knowledge will provide evidence of iv) effective policing in a crisis, v) public satisfaction/confidence in the police, vi) whether and for how long the public are willing to suspend their civil liberties and vii) factors that underlie any social/spatial variability. The link between perceptions of police legitimacy and willingness to comply means this understanding is crucial. Research findings will be scaled up into evidenced-based policing policies/practices nationally and its impact assessed and practices modified over
the period of the crisis and beyond.

Research Methodology

This interdisciplinary project will involve three inter-related workpackages (WPs):

  • WP1: Online survey, interviews and video diaries with police officers and staff from Hampshire Constabulary about policing under COVID-19 restrictions.

  • WP2: Online survey and interviews with members of the public about their worldviews, perceptions and policing interactions under COVID-19 restrictions.

  • WP3: Driving policing policy and practice in crises.

WP1 involves exploring police perceptions and experiences of implementing COVID-19 policing policies, whilst WP2 focuses on the public perceptions of COVID-19 policing and current and future drivers of compliance. These two workpackages form key components of the complex web of relations that, through their mutual interactions, structure the evolving nature of policing policies in a consensual manner. The development of discord within or in relation to these components could become the foci for dissent and precipitate more confrontational policing strategies fuelling increasingly negative behavioural feedback between the police and the public. As these two concurrent workpackages develop, the information gathered will be used in WP3 to synthesise their outcomes to
enable the development of policing strategies that reconcile policing and public worldviews. WP3, building on WP1 and WP2, will analyse how the police organisation responded and develop a framework enabling more resilience for future outbreaks, extended periods of lockdown and future policing demands. WP3 will empower the policing response to connect with the lived experiences of its staff and the wider public.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

November 2021
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