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How to improve public confidence in UK policing will be explored at a conference held by Warwick Business School.

Today's police forces are being challenged to respond to cuts, to the changing nature of crime, and to changes in police governance in England and Wales - with the introduction of directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners. For any police force to be effective in safeguarding the public, public confidence is critical. Historically, public confidence seems particularly important in the UK, given the origins of the “British policing model” which means policing by consent.

From the media one might think public trust in the police would have been shaken by negative headlines following a number of scandals such as Hillsborough or ‘Plebgate’, the unethical actions of undercover police, or the arrests of police officers as part of the Met’s Operation Elveden investigation into alleged payments to public officials by journalists. Yet a 2015 report by the Office of National Statistics saw an increase in the proportion of adults who gave their local police a positive rating to 63 per cent.

How police can earn public trust

The Public Confidence In Policing Conference, sponsored by the British Academy, will be held on March 29 at the University of Warwick and will examine how confidence can be measured effectively and how it can be earned by police.

Kevin Morrell, Professor of Strategy at Warwick Business School and conference organiser, said: “Gaining the public’s trust and confidence is absolutely vital to policing. This is because the public are a key source of information, and their trust and co-operation are often key to law enforcement.

“At the same time, it is widely acknowledged that ‘confidence’ is hard to pin down. Police forces across the world have measured public confidence in different ways but we are still asking what exactly is confidence in policing?

“We will be looking at this and related issues during the conference, bringing together research from academics and insights from frontline officers and police leaders.”

More than one public?

Research by one of the conference speakers Ben Bradford and his colleagues from the University of Oxford shows why confidence has proved hard to measure. It can be related to trust, legitimacy, fear of crime, visibility, and feelings of fairness. It can also reflect more general beliefs about justice or institutions, or the extent to which people identify with the police. Importantly though, it is different from other measures such as satisfaction - which are based on direct experience of the police.

Morrell argues that this and other work shows confidence is multi-faceted. He said: “There may not be any one such thing as ‘the public’ instead there may be multiple publics, who are more or less confident in their police force for a variety of reasons. Our measures of confidence need to reflect that diversity.”

Counter terrorism

There will be two speakers from West Midlands Police; Marcus Beale, Assistant Chief Constable, whose security brief means he works closely with the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, which has disrupted some of the most significant UK mainland terrorist plots in recent years, including the 'London Stock Exchange' plot in 2010; and Superindendent Bas Javid, who is the lead in Tactical Firearms Command and Public Order Command.

Another speaker, Bernard Rix, who recently gave evidence to the House of Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee, is CEO of CoPaCC, the organisation for comparing performance of Police and Crime Commissioners. There are also invited speakers covering issues such as domestic violence, policing threats to life, the challenges of policing a transport environment, race and racism, criminal justice. Delegates include members of the University of Warwick's Centre for Operational Policing Research.

Latest research

Professor Morrell, who was awarded a Mid-Career Fellowship by the British Academy to research public confidence in policing, said: “This will be an exciting combination of people from policing, policy and academia. It is the kind of conversation that these awards from the British Academy are designed to support.

"Universities have a long tradition of being places where voices from different perspectives are not just tolerated, but listened to and engaged with constructively. We will aim to inform conversation on public confidence, and by doing that to contribute to the public good. To do this we will be presenting and discussing the latest research and combining that with the insights of experienced officers to inform effective policing.”

To attend the conference on Tuesday March 29 at the University of Warwick email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

More information on this project is on the Policing & Public Confidence: British Academy Fellowship Microsite. The conference will be recorded and made publicly available on this site.

Conference timetable

9 am - Registration/coffee

10 am - Welcome - Kevin Morrell

10.00-11.00 Opening session - Chaired by Tank Waddington

10.10 - Public Confidence in the Police - Marcus Beale Assistant Chief Constable West Midlands Police

10.50 - Public Confidence in the Police - Bernard Rix Editor Policing Insight, CEO CoPaCC

11:30-12:30 - Panel Discussion How do we measure confidence and how could we improve confidence: Speaker 1 Kevin Morrell - Confidence, Speaker 2 Ben Bradford - Legitimacy, Speaker 3 Harry Barton - Trust


1.30 - Panel Discussion: Confidence at the frontline: Speaker 1 Superintendent Bas Javid, WMP - How Confident can we be in "Confidence"; Speaker 2 Detective Inspector Ben Hart, Salford - Confidence and Threats to Life; Speaker 3 Reka Solymosi Transport Policing & Enforcement Analyst - Confidence at TfL and the challenges of a transport environment

3.00 - Panel Discussion - Chaired by Rachel Ashworth: Critical perspectives on confidence - Speaker 1 Jo Phoenix - Young People, Speaker 2 Michael Rowe - Race and Racism, Speaker 3 Jane Callaghan - Children and Domestic Violence.

4pm Close

List of confirmed delegates and speakers

  • Professor Rachel Ashworth, Professor in Public Services Management, University of Cardiff & BAM
  • Professor Harry Barton, Chair, British Academy of Management Public Management & Governance Special Interest Group, Professor of HRM Nottingham Trent University & BAM
  • Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, West Midlands Police
  • Dr Ben Bradford, Departmental Lecturer in Criminology in the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford
  • Professor Jane Callaghan, Professor of Psychology, University of Northampton
  • Inspector Mark Cooper, West Midlands Police
  • Professor Jonathan Davies, Director of the Centre for Urban Research into Austerity, De Montfort University Leicester
  • Detective Inspector Ben Hart, Greater Manchester Police
  • Professor Jacqueline Hodgson, Director, Criminal Justice Centre, School of Law, University of Warwick & Co-Director of COPR
  • Superintendent Bas Javid, West Midlands Police
  • Professor Kevin Morrell, Warwick Business School & COPR / BAM
  • Professor Jo Phoenix, Professor of Criminology, University of Leicester
  • Sharda Ramdewor, Doctoral Researcher (body worn video & stop and search powers), School of Law
  • Bernard Rix - Editor of Policing Insight, Chief Executive of CoPaCC
  • Professor Michael Rowe, Professor of Criminology, University of Northumbria
  • Reka Solymosi Transport Policing & Enforcement Analyst - Transport for London
  • Professor Tank Waddington - Editor of Policing: A journal of policy and practice, Professor of Social Policy University of Wolverhampton
  • Dr Kimberley Wade, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology & COPR