Twitter Feed

Protest Liaison Policing

Date of event: July 21, 2023

Seminar Rooms 1&2, Ground Floor, Chrystal Macmillan Building, The University of Edinburgh 15a George Square Edinburgh EH8 9LD


Event Briefing

In the wake of the 2009 G20 in London, the Adapting to Protest reports drew on scientific research into crowds and dialogue policing models to recommend wholesale changes to public order policing. One of the key tactics introduced at this point were Police Liaison Teams (PLTs) which sought to provide a link between the police and protest groups. The aim was to build trust, increase perceptions of police legitimacy and reduce the risk of disorder. The number of PLTs has increased significantly since this point, and they are increasingly viewed as one of the most important protest event tactics available to commanders. By some accounts, the global COP26 summit held in Glasgow in 2021 saw the largest deployment of PLTs in the UK. Their engagement with protestors is credited by some for the minimal levels of disorder and numbers of arrests.

In the past year, however, the use of more disruptive protest tactics has led to a hardening of attitudes. In England and Wales, the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and Public Order Act 2023 will broaden the range of circumstances in which police may impose conditions on a protest. They introduce a new offence of being equipped for locking on, and new power to stop and search and pre-emptively arrest protestors. Whilst not applicable in Scotland, the actions of forces elsewhere in the UK have knock-on impacts here as seen during COP26. Commentators have suggested that these Acts will serve to delegitimise protestors in the eyes of police, and police in the eyes of protestors. The role of PLTs at this point, therefore, become both more crucial and more difficult.

This workshop brings together academics and practitioners – not least senior and front-line police officers engaged in public order operations and training in Scotland – to reflect on key lessons that can be learned. It will explore innovations in proactive liaison policing and reflect on training and practice with a view to identifying and sharing experiences in this difficult area. The format will involve a series of short presentations rather than lengthy lectures, with an emphasis on shared discussion of key themes and issues.

Since the focus is on knowledge exchange the main outputs will be user-friendly summaries. The discussions and findings will be disseminated by means of a briefing note to be circulated amongst conference participants and made more widely available through the websites of both the Scottish Institute of Policing Research and the University of Edinburgh. The workshop will additionally aim to create a network of scholars and practitioners with a view to hosting future events on similar themes.

Event Programme

00:30 -
- Registration & Coffee
10:15 -
- Liaison Policing in Critical Context

Liaison Policing in Critical Context Theory and practice of liaison and crowd dynamics. Clifford Stott, Professor of Social Psychology and Director of the Keele Policing Academic Collaboration

11:15 -
- Tea & Coffee Break
11:45 -
- From a Different Point of View

Reflections on protester/police interactions. Sarah Vestegren (Lecturer in Psychology, Keele University) Patricio Saavedra Morales (Assistant Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of O'Higgins.

13:00 -
- Lunch
14:00 -
- Liaison in Practice

Hugo Gorringe & Michael Rosie (Sociology, University of Edinburgh) Michael Hamilton (Amnesty International, TBC)

15:00 -
- Tea & Coffee
15:20 -
- Future Directions in Protest Liaison?

Where now for protest liaison? Lessons learned and questions remaining Steve Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology, University of St Andrews To be followed by open discussion and reflections.

Event Speaker & Guests

Register for this event

SIPR Newsletter Sign Up

You will be added to our mailing list to keep you updated with future events and activities from the Scottish Institute for Policing Research

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. For further information please read our Privacy Policy.