Protestor Liaison – Academic Theory, Professional Practice

This is an article I wrote some time ago prior to starting to blog. I discovered it whilst researching another blog post. I hope you find it useful.


This article will look at how operational policing and academic research are closely linked, using the development of protestor liaison to describe this.

The HMIC (2009a) report Adapting to Protest, produced after the G20 disorder recognised that the police should be more proactive in communicating with protestors prior to protests whilst adopt a ‘no surprises’ approach. The follow up HMIC (2009b) report Adapting to Protest: Nurturing the British Model of Policing, detailed the results of dialogue policing by Swedish police who have been instrumental in reducing disorder associated with protest events. This recommended communication with protestors before and during protest. These developments have been integrated into the policing manual for public order, Keeping the Peace, (ACPO 2010) which states that engagement and dialogue should be the cornerstones of the police response to protest.

The focus on engagement and dialogue stems from a paradigmic change in the way police view crowds. Historically, they have been seen from the Le Bonian perspective (Le Bon 1895), where the crowd is a homogenous mass, but the HMIC reports and Keeping the Peace have adopted the Elaborated Social Identity Model (ESIM) (Reicher et al 2004) which sees the crowd of an amalgam of different groups with different identities. The apparent legitimacy of police actions can change the crowd dynamic. If police action is seen as legitimate, the crowd will self police and if illegitimate they will oppose the action. The objectives of dialogue policing are designed from an ESIM perspective and seek to ensure the legitimacy of police actions.

Studies have shown that the crowd does act according to this model, Helgersson & Knutsson and Gorringe et al (2012) have, in their studies of dialogue policing have corroborated the theories of ESIM. In Helgersson & Knutsson’s (2012) previously mentioned study of the Swedish police’s use of dialogue from its genesis to accepted practice, details reductions in violence and increased self-policing due to following the tenets of ESIM. Gorringe et al (2012) look at a specific protest event, one of the first British police deployments of Protestor Liaison Teams and detail how quickly the police move from skepticism to embracing the technique.

Since the event Gorringe et al (2012), protestor liaison has been widely adopted, with HMIC recognising this. I have experience and involvement in its use to reduce conflict, facilitate peaceful protest and resolve potential tipping points.

Reference List

Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland (2010) Manual of Guidance on Keeping the Peace London National Policing Improvement Agency

Gorringe H Stott C Rosie M (2012) Dialogue Police, Decision Making and the Management of Public Order During Protest Crowd Events, Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling 9: 111-125

Holgersson, S and J Knutsson (2009), ‘Dialogue Policing – A Means for Less Collective Violence?’ in T Madensen and J Knutsson, eds. Preventing Collective Violence: Crime Prevention Studies Series, Volume 28, Monsey, NY and Cullompton, Devon, UK, 2011.

Her Majesties Inspectorate of Policing (2009a) Adapting to Protest London Home Office

Her Majesties Inspectorate of Policing (2009b) Adapting to Protest: Nurturing the British Model of Policing London Home Office

Le Bon G (1895, trans. 1947) The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind London Ernest

Reicher S Stott C Cronin P Adang O (2004) An Integrated Approach toCrowd Psychology and Public Order Policing Policing, 27(4), 558-572


About PoliceGeek

I am a police sergeant with a strong interest in policing public order, both professionally and academically. I love ultra running and seeking new challenges
This entry was posted in Academia, Human Rights, Theories and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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