School of Law

Liaison based public order policing: creating a coordinated evidence based approach

In this Section:

On the 26 and 27 March 2015 the Security and Justice Research Group and the N8 Policing Research Partnership will be hosting a 'National Public Order Police Liaison Officer Conference' in the School of Law at the University of Leeds.

Since Police Liaison Teams (PLT) were developed and deployed for the first time in Sheffield in April 2011 the PLT tactic has been adopted by around 75% of all UK forces; this includes the Metropolitan Police Service, Greater Manchester Police, Sussex, West Midlands Police, West Yorkshire Police, Police Scotland and the PSNI. PLTs are also part of a wider international development of theory and evidence led approaches to policing crowds such as the Dialogue Police in Sweden and the Event Police in Denmark.  

Given the perceived successes of PLT policing some forces now consider them as a primary tactic of their operational responses to protest. Indeed, some forces are now testing the extension of the approach into the policing of football. However, these units have not been without their critics both within and outside of the police service and systematic research remains limited to their early development within a small range of police jurisdictions. 

What is clear is that despite the ubiquitous and rapid development of PLTs there is a pressing need for systematic objective analysis of their work and impacts in a manner that can inform a nationally and locally coordinated process of development. To address this 'evidence gap' the University of Leeds, West Yorkshire Police and the College of Policing are jointly organising a National PLT Conference where representatives from PLTs across the country will be invited to present, discuss and analyse case studies of their own deployments. This evidence and analysis will then be drawn together into a set of principles of good practice that will inform training and policy at local, regional, national and international levels.                             

This two day event is part funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. There will be no fee for delegate participation but places are limited. Lunch and refreshment will be provided, but participants will be expected to meet their own travel, accommodation and subsistence costs. The conference is open to police, academics and other interested stakeholders, but places will be limited to around 60-70 delegates. Attendance will enable a fuller understanding of the status, benefits and pitfalls of PLT deployments and will be invaluable for those forces with (or planning to develop PLTs) as part of a broader rationalisation of their public order operations. The event will also be useful for academics interested in the policing of crowd events. If you are interested in attending or require any further information please follow the enquiries tab and use the message function or telephone number to contact the conference organiser.

This conference is supported by the College of Policing and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council via its 'Celebrating Impact Awards' presented to the conference organiser in 2014. The event is being hosted at the University of Leeds in partnership with West Yorkshire Police as part of an ESRC funded 'Knowledge Exchange' project. Both of these initiatives relate to a programme of research led policy development designed to integrate the development of public order policing with the latest scientific theory and evidence on the psychology and dynamics of crowds, particularly as this relates to the reduction of conflict and the protection of human rights.

PLT were developed for Operation Obelisk, the policing operation surrounding the Liberal Party Spring Conference in Sheffield as a direct result of the recommendations arising from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of the Constabulary report ‘Adapting to Protest: Nurturing the British Model of Policing Protest’. In the following four years PLTs have been adopted by over three quarters of the UK’s Police forces and are widely recognised as playing an important role in reducing conflict and maintaining a Human Rights compliant approach to the policing of protests. 

But what exactly is ‘good practice’ with respect to PLTs? What are the key principles that can be drawn out from the different events within which they have been involved? What are the common barriers and opportunities that PLTs have faced in the four years of their development? How can the future development of PLTs be safeguarded and informed in an evidence based manner? How do PLT deployments help inform our theoretical understanding of public order policing and its impact on crowd psychology and dynamics? How does PLT deployment relate to the Law, in particular the various articles of the Human Rights Act (1998).

This conference aims to address these important questions by creating a platform for high-level knowledge development and exchange that can and will be used to inform local and national policy and practice The intention at this stage is to invite representatives from PLTs from police forces across the UK including the PSNI. These PLTs will be asked to present on case studies of their deployment focusing on the nature of the challenges they faced, their operational approach and the outcomes. Having heard from these various case studies throughout day one the conference will then break into syndicates on the second day to assess the evidence and then feed back their analysis into a plenary session. On this basis of this analysis the University of Leeds will work with various police forces and the College of Policing to develop a series of evidence based principles of good practice that will be used to inform future developments and training.

The conference will be hosted by Dr Clifford Stott but further details for the conference are not yet finalised but will be available shortly, so if you have an interest in attending please express your interest to us via the enquiries page and keep these dates free in your diary. Attendance at the conference will enable an advanced understanding of the key learning points from PLT deployments across the UK.

For further published research on PLTs see the following:

  • 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(2): 111–125.
  • Stott, C, Scothern, M. & Gorringe, H. (2013) Advances in Liaison Based Public order policing: negotiating the management of protest. Policing: A Journal of Police Policy and Practice. DOI: 10.1093/police/pat007
  • Waddington, D. (2012) ‘A “kinder blue”: analysing the police management of the Sheffield anti-“Lib Dem” protest of March 2011’, Policing and Society 23(1): 46–64


09:00-10.30 - Welcome, registration, refreshments and networking.

10:30-12:00 - Opening sessions: keynotes providing operational, policy and theoretical context.

12:00 - 12:45 - Buffet Lunch & refreshments.

12.45 - 18:00 - Case studies of PLT deployments from participating forces with experienced PLT units. We have confirmed presentations from the MPS, GMP, Hampshire, Police Scotland, West and South Yorkshire, Sussex and Surrey, Beds, Cambs & Herts. Each presentation will last for approximately 20 minutes with 10 minutes for questions. 

Following the close of session on Day 1 there will be a social event in the Veritas (see Evening Social tab above)


08:00-10:00 - Day 2 will begin with a plenary discussion of some of the issues arising from the case studies. This will be  followed by syndicate breakout workshops. Each syndicate will undertake a structured discussion of the case studies with a view to drawing out principles of good practice relating to organisational, strategic, tactical and other issues. 

Dr Clifford Stott (University of Leeds), Insp. Julian Roadnight (College of Policing POPS lead), Dr Paul Quinton (College of Policing Evidence Evaluation Advisor)

10:30-13:00 - Following the syndicate session delgates will break for coffee and refreshments then reconvene in a plenary workshop. Each syndicate will report on their key conclusions & discussion will be focused upon developing principles of national good practice and theoretcial understanding of liaison based public order policing. 

13:00 - 13:30 - Closing address & departure.

Confirmed Participants

The conference is being organised by Dr Clifford Stott who will provde opening remmarks, facilitate the sessions and provide closing commentary.

Attending Organisations

College of Policing - Dr Paul Quinton and Inspector Julian Roadnight will provde the conference with a College perspective.

We also have confirmed PLT delegations from the following police forces / services: Bedfordshire, Devon & Cornwall, Durham, Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgshire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Metropolitan, Ministry of Defence Police, Police Scotland, South Yorkshire, Surrey, Sussex, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire.

We also have representatives from the HMIC and the IPCC along with academic colleagues from Kings College London, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Manchester and the University of East Anglia.



For those delegations and individuals staying overnight we are organising a social event in a city centre pub on the evening of the 26th, immediately after the end of the first day. The venue is only fifteen minutes walk from the Liberty Building. It is located in Great George Street so will be convenient for everyone staying in city centre hotels.

The event will be an excellent opportunity to informally chat through the day's presentations and to network with colleagues. We will be emailing all delegations to get some idea of numbers so that we can confirm details with the venue and to arrange pre-ordering from the set menu. Delegates will need to pay their own costs at this evening social.

If you are interested in attending this free conference please contact Clifford Stott or on the telephone at 0113 343 9421


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