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

How can the police use arts and culture as a means of engaging with the public and improve public perceptions of policing, whilst simultaneously helping to manage crime and protect the public?

West Midlands Police (WMP) was a principal partner of the Coventry UK 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 was underpinned by numerous shared values and objectives around community engagement, public safety and protecting vulnerable populations.

The research

Policing, Culture and Community: West Midlands Police as City of Culture Partners was an 18 month research project led by Professor Jackie Hodgson, School of Law, Director of Centre for Operational Police Research (COPR), working with Research Fellow on the project Dr Rachel Lewis, School of Law, COPR. It was funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account as well as the City of Culture Trust and West Midlands Police.

The project looks at the potential for police partnerships around arts and culture to positively impact police relationships with young people and seldom heard communities. Trust and confidence in the police is at an all-time low, but to be effective, officers need the support of their communities. This project investigates the potential of arts-led community collaboration to build bridges with communities, to improve mutual understanding and to strengthen trust and confidence in policing.

β€œIn this study we investigate 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 explored

The research asks 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 of arts-led collaborations in building relationships with vulnerable or seldom heard communities?
  • 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?
  • Have these police-arts collaborations had an impact on trust and confidence in policing?
Qualitative methodology

The projects employs a qualitative methodology, with more than 100 semi-structured interviews and focus groups. The team spoke to members of West Midlands Police and the City of Culture Trust to investigate the nature of the partnership, its benefits and limitations. To obtain external perspectives on the success of these arts-led collaborations during the City of Culture year, on police-community engagement and the impact of the police-City of Culture Trust partnership, interviews were also conducted with core community organisations with whom the police work, members of local government, young people and those with whom the police hope to build more positive relationships, as well as those leading arts and culture projects with WMP involvement.

PI: Professor Jackie Hodgson 
Research Fellow: Dr Rachel Lewis
March 2023 update:

Read our final report:

Policing, Culture and Community: West Midlands Police as City of Culture PartnersLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window’ Jacqueline S. Hodgson, and Rachel Lewis, (University of Warwick, 2023).

Read our Future Trends publication:

Building Trust in Policing through Arts Collaboration Jacqueline S. Hodgson, and Rachel Lewis, (University of Warwick, 2022).

Find out more about our research