Tactical options

Authorised Professional Practice

This page is from APP, the official source of professional practice for policing.

First published
Written by College of Policing
Public order
18 mins read

Commanders have a number of options available for inclusion in their tactical or deployment plans. Commanders should mix and match options and adapt them, depending on the circumstances and resource availability, in order to keep the peace and (where applicable) facilitate protest. They should take a flexible approach to the options they use, and consider the following general questions.

  • What does use of the specific tactical option (on its own or in combination with other tactics) intend to achieve?
  • How will the success of the tactical option be decided, and when?
  • What factors could help the tactic to achieve its intended aim or hinder it from doing so? For example, what resources are required (for example, appropriately skilled personnel) and are they available?
  • What are the risks involved in the use (or withdrawal) of the tactic? For example, what is the likelihood of the tactic being counterproductive by, say, affecting police legitimacy and public capacity for ‘self-policing’?
  • What contingencies and mitigations are available to address these risks, and when and under what circumstances should these be used?
  • What are the likely impacts (for example, financial, social, organisational and environmental) of using the tactical option?
  • Would use of the tactic be considered to be reasonable, necessary and proportionate, and compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (EHRC) and legislation relating to the use of force?
  • What are the health, safety and wellbeing implications of the tactical option for both the police and public?

The following options do not form an exhaustive list. A systematic search for research literature by the College has identified that the current evidence on public order policing tactics is limited, which means it is not possible to make strong statements about the effectiveness of specific tactics and ‘what works’ overall. Tactical innovation, underpinned by the national decision model (NDM) and ECHR/legislative considerations, is therefore encouraged, particularly when supported by research. Innovative practice, learning from implementation, and research findings should be shared with the wider police service – via the College of Policing – to enable the evidence base to be built, tactics to be developed and assessed, and police practices to be improved.

In the event of a multi-agency response partners will also refer to the joint decision model (JDM).

Air support

  • Provides an overview to the command team.
  • Supports the intelligence and evidence gathering function.
  • Monitors crowd and traffic movement.
  • Provides artificial lighting.

Air support – considerations

  • Function is delivered on a national basis by the National Police Air Service (NPAS).
  • Requests for air support are made by individual forces to the Despatch and Flight Monitoring Centre.
  • Effect of airborne lighting and use of public address systems on the crowd/community.
  • Raised noise levels from aircraft can hamper communication.
  • Availability and cost.
  • Can enable the movement of specialist personnel, for example, public order tactical advisers.

Armed officers

  • Deployment in a public order situation provides protection for officers and others from a person who:
    • is in possession of, or has immediate access to, a firearm or other potentially lethal weapon; or
    • is otherwise so dangerous that the deployment of armed officers is considered to be appropriate
  • May be required as an operational contingency in a specific operation, based on the threat assessment.

Armed officers – considerations

  • For authority levels (and further information) see the APP on Armed policing.
  • Other than with the deployment of attenuating energy projectiles (AEPs) teams, the use of warning messages is not necessarily appropriate in circumstances where armed police are deployed during public disorder. In these circumstances, refer to guidance on ‘oral warnings’ (see APP on Armed policing):
    • recording of warning given
    • safety of unprotected officers
    • medical assistance and aftercare procedures
    • impact on the community and media presentation
    • post-incident scene management
    • availability and protective qualities of ballistic-protected vehicles
    • training and familiarity of armed officers with public order tactics and environment
    • the availability of support from AEP officers/public order trained officers familiar with armed officer tactics
    • ensuring that armed officers are not exposed to missile attack/overrun by hostile crowd
    • use of force legislation may apply
    • command structure/protocols during multi-disciplined operations

Arrest teams

  • Provide suitably skilled personnel acting together, with protection if appropriate, in order to arrest identified individuals.

Arrest teams – considerations

  • Arrest powers and policy.
  • Use of information/intelligence.
  • Impact on the community and crowd.
  • Is arrest a proportionate response to minimise impact of timing of arrests?
  • Media opportunities and public perception.
  • Resource availability and potential depletion of staff.
  • Appropriate training and equipment.
  • Compliance with intervention plan.
  • Evidence management.
  • Management of case progression.
  • Cell space.
  • Deployment in plain clothes must be in accordance with silver commander protocols, risk assessed and communicated to bronze commanders.
  • Briefing in relation to policing style (for example, a dynamic crowd entry versus slow-time passive arrest).
  • Attendance of EGT to record arrest phase.
  • Arrangement of prisoner transport (prior to arrest if possible).
  • Code G PACE.

Artificial lighting

  • Illuminates a specific area.
  • Reduces health and safety hazards.
  • Reduces anonymity of protagonists.
  • Assists intelligence and evidence gathering functions.
  • Increases police visibility.

Artificial lighting – considerations

  • Lighting systems available include:
    • night sun (helicopter)
    • vehicle-mounted
    • hand-held
    • mobile floodlighting
  • prevailing conditions and desired objective(s).

Attenuating energy projectiles

In certain circumstances, it may be necessary and proportionate to deploy officers equipped with attenuating energy projectiles (AEPs), but without conventional firearms, to situations of serious public disorder. AEP is intended for use as an accurate and discriminating projectile, designed to be fired at individual aggressors, whether such aggressors are acting on their own or as part of a group. It is not designed for use as a crowd control tool.

Deploying AEP to situations of serious public disorder is outside the scope of conventional firearms authorities and should be authorised and commanded by appropriately trained and accredited public order commanders.

Authority levels to make AEPs available for operational purposes

  • Officer of at least the rank of assistant chief constable/commander.

Authority levels to use

  • Once the authority to make AEPs available for operational purposes has been granted, the authority to use them lies with the silver commander.
  • The silver commander keeps the authority to use AEPs under constant review and liaises with bronze commanders and the personnel using the AEPs operationally.
  • In Northern Ireland, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) local operational instructions may contain additional requirements as deemed appropriate by the chief constable, in order to meet local legislative and oversight arrangements.

Criteria for use

  • Officers trained in the use of AEP may be deployed in situations of serious public disorder where its use is judged to be necessary to reduce a serious risk of:
    • loss of life or serious injury, or
    • substantial and serious damage to property where there is, or is judged to be, a sufficiently serious risk of loss of life or serious injury to justify its use
  • In assessing the risk of loss of life or serious injury occurring in a public order situation, the risks to police officers, members of the emergency services, members of the public and others should be taken into account.
  • Chief officer to submit a written report to the home secretary as soon as is practicable.

Other considerations

  • Also referred to as ‘impact rounds’.
  • Warning messages of impending use should be given and recorded.
  • Medical assistance and aftercare procedures.
  • Impact on the community and media interpretation.
  • Must only be used by trained officers.
  • The discharge of an AEP launcher initiates post-incident management procedures.
  • Use of force legislation may apply.
  • The L104A2 launcher system is not authorised or deployed for use in Scotland in public order situations unless as part of an authorised firearms operation.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

  • Automatically reads vehicle registration marks (VRMs), allowing these details to be compared against database records.
  • May help to deter, disrupt and detect criminal activity.
  • Can record multiple vehicles and their movements, for example, at illegal raves.

ANPR – considerations

  • Type of number plate recognition device (NRD), for example, static, moveable, mobile, covert.
  • Advice available from ANPR tactical advisers.
  • Reactive investigation, for example, identify the vehicles of people in a particular location during particular time parameters to assist in identifying a suspect, potential victim, or potential witnesses.
  • Proactive investigation, for example, research the movements of a vehicle of interest.
  • For further information see the APP on Roads policing and the APP on Investigation.


  • Assist with managing and controlling crowd movement.

Barriers – considerations

  • Public and officer safety – barriers should be physically supervised and are not a substitute for staff (although the use of barriers may reduce the number of staff required).
  • In many circumstances, for example, commercial or community events, the placing and managing of barriers is not the responsibility of the police.
  • Potential for negative public perception because of the physical barrier between the police and public.
  • Entry/exit points should be established with consideration of appropriate signage.
  • Different types of barriers as appropriate, for example, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN), concrete, metal, tape.
  • Lack of mobility of barriers limits rapid deployment.
  • During disorder, use of mounted officers in conjunction with barriers must be closely monitored.
  • Can become a weapon for hostile crowds.
  • Securing barriers together may reduce the risk but may trap the crowd and police.
  • Legal powers to place and enforce barriers, for example, road traffic legislation, containment, Town Police Clauses Act 1847.
  • Article 5 ECHR – right to liberty and security – may apply.


  • Are used by appropriately trained officers in order to:
    • protect officers
    • demonstrate that force is about to be/may be used
    • facilitate dispersal and/or arrest

Batons – considerations

  • In the absence of force policy, the silver commander authorises a specialist public order baton to be carried.
  • The decision to draw and/or deploy batons as a group tactic rests with the police support unit (PSU) commander in line with the bronze commander’s deployment plan. In the absence of the PSU commander, the decision rests with the supervisor of the unit, having conducted a dynamic risk assessment of the threats faced.
  • Any decision to draw batons and deploy them as a group tactic must be recorded and justified by the decision-maker.
  • An individual officer still has the right to draw and use their baton in order to protect themselves, colleagues or members of the public.
  • Officer/public safety.
  • Warning messages should be given and recorded.
  • Demonstrating that force may be used may serve as a deterrent.
  • Level of force should be reasonable, necessary and proportionate (that is, minimum required to meet a lawful objective, and be ECHR-compliant).
  • It is a lawful order to require officers to draw batons and/or advance.
  • The decision to strike is for the individual officer and must be justified by them in each instance.
  • Collective and individual use of force – proportionality and necessity.
  • If more than one baton is carried, guidance should be provided on how each should be used.
  • Side-handle batons are not suitable for use in situations of serious public disorder.
  • Aftercare of injured persons.

Community mediators

Work with individuals or groups who can facilitate or establish dialogue before, during and after an event to:

  • dispel rumour
  • reduce conflict
  • provide information that supports the intelligence function
  • help in the development of disorder reduction plans – supporting principles of ‘no surprise’ policing

Community mediators – considerations

  • Mediators may, formally or otherwise:
    • have influence or authority
    • be part of the community or represent it
    • be a member of an organisation with statutory responsibilities
    • have an awareness of community issues
  • Mediators may be used throughout the full range of community tension from a state of normality to serious disorder/riot.
  • Use of media to communicate key information.
  • Appeals or public meetings.
  • No inadvertent disclosure of police tactics.
  • Individuals or groups may have hidden agendas.
  • Provision of local arrangements for managing and supporting mediators.
  • Comparing information and intelligence from all available resources to aid decision making.
  • Disclosing sensitive information may support an early resolution of an event or incident, but its use may also have other adverse implications.


  • Is only permitted where a breach of the peace is taking place or is reasonably thought to be imminent.
  • Is a tactic of final resort and, if used, it should be the least intrusive and most effective means to protect the public from violence.
  • May consist of cordoning or other restrictions (for example, temporarily restricting exit from a designated area, room, stadium).
  • Presents a risk of interfering with ECHR Article 5 right to liberty and security.

Note: If containment is a tactical consideration when planning the police response, the strategic objectives and operational policy/decision logs should reflect the criteria and considerations presented in this section.

Containment officer

  • Identifies the legal basis to support the containment, that is, necessity, communication, timescale, differentiation, welfare, release, recording.
  • Must liaise with the relevant bronze commander if this role is not carried out by the same person.


  • The police should be able to demonstrate the tactic was necessary, proportionate to the threat and was used in good faith.
  • The use of containment should be linked to police intelligence. The police must have reasonable grounds to believe there is actual violence, or a threat of imminent violence.


  • Where appropriate, the police should seek to ensure that protestors are aware, prior to the protest, of their concerns regarding any intent shown by demonstrators to cause violence and, therefore, the likelihood that containment may be considered.
  • The purpose and reason for imposing a containment tactic should be plain at all times to those contained within it.
  • Those contained should be given regular updates including timescales.
  • Appropriate means of communication should be identified to ensure that the crowd is aware of key issues.


  • Containment should last only as long as is necessary. It must also be the least intrusive and most effective tactic at the time of use.


  • When implementing and maintaining a containment tactic, the police should, where possible, differentiate between non-violent persons (for example, peaceful protestors, innocent bystanders, vulnerable persons, media) and violent protestors.
  • Those identified as non-violent should be released as soon as it is safe to do so, so long as release would not frustrate the tactic.
  • Production of a UK press card should allow the holder release from any area subject to containment, unless the behaviour of the holder is cause for concern.


  • When implementing a containment tactic, the police should seek to limit the discomfort of those contained as far as reasonably practical, and cater to basic needs such as water and toilets.
  • If a person within the containment presents with a medical emergency, they should be released as a priority and without delay.
  • The use of independent observers may assist the police in identifying welfare issues. The suitability of the observer and consequential issues should be considered.


  • On implementing a containment tactic, the police should develop a dispersal plan (if not already considered). The plan should consider how people will be released (for example, if the dispersal needs to be phased).
  • If, during its imposition, the police attempt to lift the containment, but decide that it is impractical to do so due to continued necessity, it should be fully documented.

Further information

For further information see:

  • Austin v United Kingdom (2012) EHRR 14
  • Castle and Others v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2011] EWHC 2317 (Admin)
  • R (McClure and Moos) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2012] EWCA Civ 12
  • Home Affairs Committee (2009) Report on the Policing of the G20 Protests

Cordons and intercepts

  • Facilitate and manage the movement of pedestrians and vehicles.
  • Assist with information/intelligence gathering.

Cordons and intercepts – considerations

  • Cordons and intercepts can be used independently or as a coordinated tactic.
  • Effective use of this option depends on appropriate officer protection and sufficient resources.
  • Various resources may be employed with a view to potentially increasing the effectiveness of this option:
    • foot patrol officers
    • dog units
    • mounted police
    • protected vehicles
    • barriers
    • automatic number plate recognition systems
    • roads policing officers
  • Community or crowd safety.
  • May include absolute or filter cordons.

Cycle tactics

  • Allow the police to patrol or respond to areas that have limited vehicular access.
  • Escort marches/groups.

Cycle tactics – considerations

  • Appropriate training and equipment.
  • May increase police visibility and public confidence.
  • Environmentally friendly.
  • Possible reduction in effectiveness within crowds.
  • Contingency for officer abstraction.


  • May be slow-time or more dynamic, for example, facilitation of dispersal through negotiation, the use of ‘go forward’ tactics.
  • May help to separate a crowd into smaller groups.
  • Protects significant or vulnerable locations or communities.
  • May curtail or initiate disorder and other criminality.

Dispersal – considerations

  • May result in displacement or obscuring of threat.
  • Effect on policing style.
  • Potential impact on perceptions of police legitimacy.
  • Resource numbers and types.
  • Crowd dynamics and management, for example, exit routes, displacement, duty of care, vulnerable persons.
  • Use of force levels.
  • Command and control of resource
    • briefing
    • parameters
    • officer fatigue
    • evidence gathering
    • integrity of units
  • Legal, for example, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 Part 3, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 s 35, breach of the peace.
  • Differentiation of crowd (for example, between those engaged in criminal acts and bystanders) can be problematic.
  • Use of appropriate resources, for example, vehicle tactics, community mediator.

Evidence gathering team

  • Consists of a minimum of two trained and appropriately equipped officers (one of these officers acts as a minder for the other).
  • Secures video evidence in order to support the investigation and prosecution of offenders.

Evidence gathering team – considerations

  • May record:
    • the scene prior to, during and after the event
    • delivery of warning messages
    • delivery briefing/debriefing
    • arrest
    • legal conditions, for example, Public Order Act 1986 s 12
  • Impact of filming on individuals/crowd, for example, may reduce potential for disorder or, conversely, may act as a trigger for disorder.
  • Is any potential interference with qualified rights (for example, Article 8 ECHR – right to respect for private and family life) necessary, proportionate and legal?
  • Officer safety.
  • Command protocols.
  • Potential impact on perceptions of police legitimacy.
  • Processes and policy for:
    • management of evidence
    • taking of images
    • retention of images

Deployment of forward intelligence teams and evidence gathering teams.

Forward intelligence team

  • Tasked to undertake overt information and intelligence gathering.
  • Identifies and engages with individuals/groups who may become involved in, or encourage, disorder or violence, or may increase levels of tension.
  • Provides commanders with fast-time updates so that resources can be deployed efficiently and effectively.
  • Can provide information to assist in early resolution of events, for example, arrests, release of contained persons.
  • Consists of a minimum of two trained officers normally working to bronze intelligence.

Forward intelligence team – considerations

  • Deployment before, during and after the event.
  • Possess knowledge of protest groups.
  • Should not carry cameras.
  • Process for the dissemination of intelligence and information to assist the policing operation.
  • Deployment does not preclude the requirement for all officers involved in the operation to gather information and intelligence.
  • Is any potential interference with qualified rights (for example, Article 8 ECHR – right to respect for private and family life) necessary, proportionate and legal?
  • Officer safety.
  • Command protocols.
  • Potential impact on perceptions of police legitimacy.

Deployment of forward intelligence teams and evidence gathering teams.

Mounted police

  • Assist with monitoring crowd dynamics and gathering information/intelligence.
  • Demonstrate that force is about to be/may be used.
  • Support cordons.
  • Escort marches/groups.
  • Assist with the dispersal of a crowd.

Mounted police – considerations

  • Essential that capabilities and limitations of this option are fully understood prior to its use. Advice should be sought from the mounted public order commander.
  • Support of foot patrol officers required, particularly when taking ground.
  • Briefing with relevant PSU commanders and bronze commanders prior to deployment.
  • Warning messages of impending use should be given and recorded.
  • Escape routes for the crowd are required.
  • Deployment of horses in close proximity to barriers may not be appropriate on safety grounds.
  • If used as a group dispersal tactic, agreed protocols for authorisation are required.
  • Foot patrol officers should be appropriately trained where deployed with mounted police.
  • Tactical boundaries need to be agreed with the geographical bronze public order commander.
  • Collective and individual use of force (see police use of force) – proportionality and necessity.
  • Deploy in accordance with the tactical plan and tactical parameters.

Mutual aid

  • Resolves an individual force’s anticipated lack of capacity or capability to meet an extraordinary demand (either pre-planned or spontaneous) for resources.
  • May apply to public order or other police resources required for any major operation.
  • May include national, regional or localised mobilisation of resources.

Mutual aid – considerations

  • For further information on the structures and processes associated with mobilisation see the APP on Mobilisation.
  • In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, the National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC), supported by Regional Information and Coordination Centres (RICCs), coordinates mobilisation.
  • Interoperability factors should be managed through effective command structure and protocols.
  • Forces may also develop and activate localised agreements with neighbouring forces.


  • Also referred to as hostage negotiators.
  • Can provide advice to commanders or deploy as a team comprising a minimum of two officers.
  • May assist in the peaceful resolution of incidents.
  • According to threat assessment, may be required as an operational contingency.
  • Provide commanders with advice on communications with those in crisis or in vulnerable situations.

Negotiators – considerations

  • Command structure/protocols.
  • Effects on tactical plan.
  • Risk assessments.
  • National training and standards.
  • Evidence gathering and arrest procedures surrounding their use.

Normal policing

  • Aims to maintain business as usual.
  • Aims to build trust and confidence within communities.
  • Aims to build and maintain links with communities.
  • Aims to present and/or maintain an accepted image and appearance.

Normal policing – considerations

  • Normal policing may be used throughout the range of tensions experienced within a community but will be typical during a state of normality. It should be maintained for as long as possible and returned to as soon as possible. Commanders should always consider whether normal policing methods and resources are possible.
  • Any transition from/to normal policing should take account of the safety and welfare of the public, partners and police.
  • Any departure from normal policing may weaken links with the community/partners and may reduce the flow of community information/intelligence.
  • Different areas may be subject to different tactical options (for example, normal policing in one section of the community but different tactics are used, at the same time, elsewhere).
  • The links developed during a state of normality may be critical to the success of engagement strategies during periods of heightened tension.
  • Neighbourhood policing teams are essential to maintaining normal policing and can help to improve/maintain public trust and confidence in the police when they engage with the communities, carry out targeted foot patrol, and solve community problems.
  • The management of the underlying tensions within all communities should be regarded as a continuous partnership process rather than one of crisis intervention by the police alone.
  • Development of a systematic and structured approach to community engagement is prudent.
  • Resources may be proactively tasked in line with intelligence-led policing principles and the Disorder Model.


  • Any feature designed or produced to obstruct and their associated mitigation techniques, for example:
    • method of entry
    • barricade removal
    • plant vehicles
    • protestor removal

Obstacles – considerations

  • Is there a requirement to breach/remove the obstacle?
  • Resources available in order to achieve the desired outcome.
  • Use of specialist equipment, from door enforcers to plant equipment.
  • Use of specialist officers, such as those trained in building entry, protestor removal and method of entry techniques.
  • Legal ownership associated with the obstacle (powers to remove/retain/damage).
  • Requirement to restore obstacle after breach/removal.
  • Health and safety of those breaching/removing obstacles.
  • Duty of care to individuals in proximity of obstacles.

Police dogs

  • Demonstrate that force is about to be/may be used.
  • Support cordons.
  • Escort marches/groups.
  • Protect significant locations.
  • Assist with the dispersal of a crowd.

Police dogs – considerations

  • Essential that capabilities and limitations of this option are fully understood prior to its use. Advice should be sought from the dog section supervisor.
  • Specific risk assessments and appropriate control measures.
  • Warning messages of impending use should be given and recorded.
  • Community impact and perception.
  • Whether their use is reasonable, necessary and proportionate.
  • Collective and individual use of force (see police use of force) – proportionality and necessity.
  • Deploy in accordance with the tactical plan and tactical parameters.
  • Additional capabilities available, for example, specialist search dogs (drugs, explosives).

Police liaison team

  • The role of the police liaison team (PLT) is to provide a link through dialogue between the police and groups.
  • Is deployed before, during and after events to establish and maintain dialogue with groups, adopting a community policing style.
  • Reduces potential tension and the risk of disorder and conflict (for example, avoiding misunderstandings, rumour control) and promotes trust and confidence in the police.
  • PLTs are not deployed to gather intelligence.
  • Deployed in uniform and readily identifiable as PLTs during an event by wearing a light blue tabard/jacket marked boldly with the words ‘Police Liaison’.

Police liaison team – considerations

  • PLTs communicate predominately with protest organisers and groups, but their deployment is not limited to only protest policing.
  • Clear protocols, specific to the operation, need to be developed and understood as to how PLTs feed in information to organisers, groups and the policing operation.
  • Use of PLTs does not replace responsibility for all officers to communicate during an event.
  • May help to minimise the recourse to the use of force during an event.
  • Clear command protocols and lines of communication to support the deployment of PLTs.
  • Officer safety.
  • Management of PLT resources, for example, a coordinator.
  • A PLT is a core minimum of two police liaison trained officers (one may be the team leader). As a guide, three PLTs should be accompanied by a team leader.
  • A PLT’s primary function is that of liaison. The silver commander should consider the availability of other suitable resources to deliver directed tactics, including arrest and intelligence gathering functions. This is to avoid conflict with the PLT role.
  • Officer welfare during long-term deployments.
  • Meetings in the pre- and post-event phase may on occasion be conducted in plain clothes. This should only be to assist communications with those being engaged. The danger of officers being perceived to be working covertly should be borne in mind whenever PLTs wear plain clothes.

Police support units

The police support unit (PSU) structure allows for the effective deployment of resources as a standard unit. There are three levels which are defined according to training and equipment standards.

Level 3 PSU (beat duty unit)

  • Consists of 1 inspector, 3 sergeants and 18 constables.
  • There are no specific equipment requirements.
  • There are no specific driver requirements.

Level 2 PSU trained

  • Consists of 1 inspector, 3 sergeants, 18 constables and 3 drivers with protected personnel carriers.
  • Note: PSNI Level 2 PSU consist of 1 inspector, 4 sergeants, 20 constables and 5 vehicles with ballistic protection.


  • A standard, mutual aid PSU deploys with intermediate/long and round shields, but any proposed deviations from this should be requested by the silver commander.
  • Appropriate training and equipment to deal with potential/actual threat(s).
  • Effective mobilisation plans to ensure prompt and appropriate deployment.
  • Operational necessity may require serials to be deployed separately.
  • Subject to local arrangements, units may provide or require additional equipment:
    • method of entry equipment
    • mobile lighting
    • major incident equipment/documentation

Level 1 PSU trained

  • Typically receive extra training beyond that of a Level 2 PSU and/or work together as a team on a regular basis.
  • Carries out specialist tactics commensurate with their training.


  • Likely to be a multi-skilled resource which may result in a conflict of roles.
  • Use of comprehensive briefings in order to determine appropriate policing style, raise awareness of local issues/community impact.
  • Variations in title may apply to forces, for example, Territorial Support Group (TSG), Force Support Group.

Protected officers

  • Have the appropriate level of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Properly trained and equipped with the appropriate level of PPE can be deployed to public order situations.

Protected officers – considerations

  • Does intelligence justify level of protection?
  • Community impact factors, that is, public perception and potential impact on community confidence.
  • Level of protection required in order to increase officer confidence.
  • Health and safety.
  • Officer welfare and resilience.
  • The range of PPE available.
  • Officer proximity to PPE.
  • Maximising the early availability of protected officers in order to increase capability and promptly suppress any criminal activity or disorder.

Public order medics

  • Provide immediate medical assistance and equipment during pre-planned or spontaneous public order events.

Public order medics – considerations

  • Public order medics are deployed in pairs to maximise safety and clinical care procedures. In some circumstances, such as serious disorder, this number may be increased or supplemented with officers to act as protection.
  • Deploy as a resource that can be tasked separately to other PSU resources. They may be attached to a PSU for command and control.
  • Appropriate training and equipment in line with College of Policing guidance and standards.
  • Can deploy to environments where health service resources are unable to operate due to the threat or existence of disorder/violence.
  • Officer safety.
  • Command protocols and responsibilities.
  • Local clinical governance arrangements.

Shield tactics

  • A range of appropriate shield tactics can be used to:
    • protect officers
    • assist with the dispersal of crowds
    • protect vulnerable persons/significant locations
    • contain disorder
    • arrest offenders

Shield tactics – considerations

  • Appropriate training and equipment.
  • Impact on crowd and community confidence.
  • The size, shape and configuration of shields offer a range of advantages and disadvantages. These include protection, mobility and officer degradation levels.

Vehicle tactics

  • Provide physical protection and support for officers.
  • Act as a physical barrier or filter.
  • Provide a protected platform from which to make arrests, gather intelligence/evidence and communicate with the crowd.
  • Assist with the dispersal of a crowd or taking and holding ground.

Vehicle tactics – considerations

  • Community impact or crowd reaction.
  • Use of emergency warning equipment, including sirens, may affect crowd dynamics.
  • Warning messages of impending use should be given and recorded.
  • Effective communication is essential to maintain control.
  • Suitably equipped and protected vehicles.
  • Support by foot patrol officers.
  • Collective and individual use of force (see police use of force) – proportionality and necessity.

Water cannon

  • Presently only authorised for use in Northern Ireland.
  • Demonstrates that force is about to be/may be used.
  • Keeps crowds at a distance.
  • Supports a police cordon.
  • Assists in the dispersal of groups.
  • Provides a platform from which evidence and intelligence can be gathered and information can be communicated.

Authority levels to make this tactic available for operational purposes

  • Officer of at least the rank of assistant chief constable/commander.

Authority levels to use

  • Once the authority to make water cannon available for operational purposes has been granted, the authority to use the equipment lies with the silver commander.
  • The silver commander keeps the authority to use water cannon under constant review and liaises with bronze commanders and the personnel operating it.

Criteria for use

  • When conventional methods of policing have been tried and failed or, because of the circumstances, are unlikely to succeed if tried.
  • In situations of serious public disorder where there is the potential for loss of life, serious injury or widespread destruction and whether such action is likely to reduce that risk.
  • Must only be used by trained officers.

Other considerations

  • Impact on the community.
  • Media impact and interpretation.
  • Suitably trained resources.
  • Manoeuvrability of the vehicle and the intended working environment.
  • Protection and availability of refill sites.
  • Warning messages of impending use should be given and recorded.
  • Essential that the capabilities of this equipment are fully understood prior to deployment.
  • A tactical adviser specifically trained in the use of such equipment should be available to commanders.
  • Supported by foot deployed officers.
  • Use of force legislation may apply.

Welfare provision

The duty of care to officers and police staff extends to welfare, physical, psychological and medical support.

The scale and duration of an operation dictate the level of welfare provision required to support staff. Welfare provision:

  • increases resource effectiveness
  • builds confidence and support in the policing operation among staff
  • is scalable in response to the threats and requirements to the operation
  • addresses legal responsibilities to staff and others

Welfare provision – considerations

  • Logistical support, for example:
    • catering
    • toilet facilities
    • handovers and rest breaks
    • accommodation
    • transport
    • replacement equipment
    • briefing/debriefing
  • Staff association involvement.
  • Maps/guides.
  • Mutual aid liaison officers (MALOs).
  • Prolonged operations or deployments bring their own unique challenges. Among these may be specific targeting of officers, especially those occupying key roles. Commanders should consider how they will support and mitigate such actions. This might include, but is not restricted to:
    • deployment of alternative tactical options such as FIT
    • welfare briefings/debriefings
    • enhanced supervision
    • regular rotation of staff


  • Stand-off/regroup enables safe and effective withdrawal of personnel.
  • May re-establish normal policing levels.
  • Allows opportunity to regroup, reassess, brief, and re-engage.
  • May provide opportunity to de-escalate policing response.

Withdrawal – considerations

  • Police core responsibilities remain relevant.
  • Community impact factors – perceived ineffectiveness of police.
  • Can be used as part of a structured return to a state of normality.
  • May be used as a diversionary tactic.
  • Can be difficult to coordinate.
  • Health and safety of staff.
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