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Policing, Culture and Community: WM Police as City of Culture Partners

How can the police use City of Culture as a platform to engage the public and improve public perceptions of policing, whilst simultaneously helping to manage crime and protect event attendees?

West Midlands Police (WMP) is a principal partner of the City of Culture Trust in the delivery of Coventry City of Culture. In addition to the obvious community safety aspects of running a city-based cultural mega event (from policing large audiences, to licensing venues and outdoor spaces), collaboration is underpinned by numerous shared values and objectives around community engagement, public safety and protecting vulnerable populations.

The research

Policing, Culture and Community: WM Police as City of Culture Partners is a new 15 month research project led by Professor Jackie Hodgson, School of Law, Director of Centre for Operational Police Research (COPR) with Professor Neil Stewart (WBS) as Co-I. It is funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account as well as the City of Culture Trust and West Midlands Police.

The project seeks to understand the potential for police partnerships around arts and culture to positively impact reducing crime, protecting vulnerable people, increasing diversity in recruitment, and on police relationships with young people and seldom heard communities.

“This study will evaluate the nature and impact of WMP’s partnership with the Trust in the design and delivery of City of Culture. We are interested to understand how the police are working with a wide range of arts and culture projects and what impacts this has on the practices of the police, and of those designing and leading cultural events. We hope that our research will provide new understandings of policing that can be translated into changes in policy and practice. This is the first time that the police have partnered in a cultural mega event and our work has the potential to influence the nature and success of future policing partnerships around large-scale events.”

Professor Jackie Hodgson

Questions to be explored

The research will ask a number of salient questions, including:

  • To what extent has the model of partnership with the Trust ensured that WMP can contribute to Coventry City of Culture in order to make positive impacts in the city?
  • What are the benefits to the police in investing in a partnership in the delivery of cultural mega events, and how does this compare with other forms of collaboration e.g. sporting mega events?
  • What benefits has the police partnership with City of Culture brought to young people, areas of deprivation, those most fearful of crime and those suffering health and economic disadvantage?
  • What is the legacy of the Police-Trust partnership in terms of robust, tested strategies and practices?

An interdisciplinary approach

The team will consist of Professors Jackie Hodgson and Neil Stewart, both of whom have worked with police forces on a variety of policing issues.

As Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Jackie is also the University lead on research around City of Culture.

Professors Hodgson and Stewart will each work with a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant with expertise in criminology and linguistics (Dr Rachel Lewis) and econometric analysis (Dr Marta Gonzalez Iraizoz).

The project will use both qualitative and quantitative methods to understand the impact of WMP’s partnership in the design and delivery of City of Culture, public safety and perceptions of policing.

Qualitative methodology

The qualitative work will involve semi-structured interviews with members of the City of Culture Trust and WMP to investigate the nature of the partnership, its benefits and limitations.

To obtain external perspectives on the success of policing during the City of Culture year, police-community engagement and the impact of the police-City of Culture Trust partnership, interviews will also be conducted with core community organisations with whom the police are working, as well as those leading arts and culture projects with WMP involvement

To gauge public perceptions of policing and community safety during the City of Culture year, the team will also investigate the public's response to policing in several key areas of the city.

“Interviews and focus groups will take place over a 15-month period to detect change across the City of Culture Year. The findings from the qualitative data will be cross-referenced with the quantitative data from other sources (such as victim surveys and household surveys) to understand changes over time around feelings of safety and trust in police. Existing data sets will be interrogated to benchmark against new data and a variety of sources will be drawn upon such as police incident data and the Coventry Household Survey” explains Professor Hodgson.

Quantitative methodology

Led by Professor Stewart, the quantitative work will track how counts of crimes and incidents have changed over the City of Culture year. A counterfactual for what would have happened to these crimes and incidents figures can be constructed by comparing these with data from across the WMP region.

“We will endeavour to quantify the causal effect of the City of Culture events on levels of crimes and incidents in Coventry. In addition to an overall estimate, estimates can be provided for sub-types of crime, such as property crime, violent crime, antisocial behaviour and domestic abuse. We can also estimate how large events create, remove, or displace crimes and incidents in time, space, and type. This spatiotemporal analysis of the data exploits the type, timing and location of information routinely recorded”

Professor Neil Stewart