Major new research collaboration will help to improve police-community relationships

A major new collaborative research programme which aims to improve relationships between police and the communities they work with is set to begin at Keele University, after funding of almost £1m was awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Led by Keele, in partnership with University College London and the London School of Economics, the ESRC-funded project will investigate how encounters with the police shape police community relationships among marginalised communities.

The research teams will work closely with policing partners in three of the UK’s largest police forces - West Midlands, West Yorkshire and the Metropolitan Police - in order to observe day-to-day interactions as well as following arrested individuals through the criminal justice process. The research will then be utilised to develop new policies and practices to improve community policing.

Professor Clifford Stott, Co-Director of Keele Policing Academic Collaboration (KPAC) and Principal Investigator of the research programme, explains:

“We’ll be undertaking observations within our partner police forces, especially on the policing of communities where demand for police resource is high, or where police-community relationships are particularly problematic. Where arrests happen, we’ll be tracking individuals through the criminal justice process. We’ll also be running lab-based virtual reality experiments to test our theories about the factors that shape perceptions of police legitimacy and compliance with the law.

From our research findings, we’ll be working with our police force partners to influence national policy and practice in ways that help improve everyday encounters with the police.”

Chief Superintendent Owen West, West Yorkshire Police, comments:

“If the model of policing by consent is to survive, it is vital the police renew their covenant with the communities we serve. The British Policing model is founded on the ‘Peelian’ principle of the notion of Police Legitimacy. The idea that, as Sir Robert Peel said, “the public are the police and the police are the public”. Arguably that model has never been under as great a threat as it is today. Adopting evidence-based reforms in procedural justice will allow the service to reconnect with our core mission. This project therefore will be a landmark opportunity in understanding where the police-public relationship is right now, and what needs to change for the future.”

The ambitious three-year research programme will begin in the Autumn. For more information about Keele Policing Academic Collaboration, visit