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Policing, culture & community – West Midlands Police as City of Culture partners

Evaluating police engagement with arts and culture through Coventry UK City of Culture as a means of connecting with seldom heard communities, and increasing trust and confidence in policing. 

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Professor Jackie Hodgson
Police region
West Midlands
Collaboration and partnership

Coventry City of Culture Trust; West Midlands Police 

Level of research
Professional/work based
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

West Midlands Police (WMP) are partners with the City of Culture Trust (the Trust) in the delivery of Coventry UK City of Culture year 2021/22. While the police have previously used sporting mega-events as a way of connecting with communities and reducing crime, this is the first time they have engaged in this way with a cultural mega-event. 

The project is led by researchers from University of Warwick's Centre for Operational Police Research (COPR) in partnership with WMP and the Trust. The research adopts a mixed methods approach, using interviews and focus groups to understand how the police-trust partnership has facilitated new forms of community engagement, the benefits and limitations of this, and the lessons going forward for police engagement with arts and culture.

Using routinely recorded reports of crimes and incidents, it will also try to estimate how individual large events create, remove or displace crimes and incidents in time, space and type.

The results of the research will consider the potential for police partnerships around arts and culture to have a positive impact in 3 key areas:

  • crime reduction
  • connection with and protection of communities – particularly vulnerable people and those at risk of exploitation
  • and improving trust and confidence in policing

The results will be disseminated in a number of ways, including through police and public engagement events.

An important outcome of the project is to understand the ways that police can use arts and culture as a way of reaching groups and communities that have historically proved difficult to connect with and who often have low levels of trust in police. It is hoped that this will provide insights and an evidence base to enable other forces to use arts and culture to build meaningful and productive relationships across the community. 

Research methodology

The project adopts a mixed methods approach.

Phase one

The first phase uses qualitative methods to understand the impact of West Midlands Police's (WMP) partnership with the Coventry UK City of Culture Trust in the design and delivery of the City of Culture year, on public safety and on public perceptions of policing.

Semi-structured interviews are carried out with:

  • Trust members and those responsible for delivery of the City of Culture year
  • police officers of all ranks, from PCSOs through to the most senior officers, including those tasked with working closely with City of Culture organisers and events
  • those in core community organisations with whom the police are working as part of City of Culture

Focus groups are also being conducted with a range of community groups, including:

  • seldom heard individuals with lived experience of homelessness
  • young people
  • those at risk of exploitation

Researchers have also attended City of Culture events in which the police have played a role, to observe responses and community engagement.

Phase two

The second phase, beginning in June 2022, will utilise routinely recorded reports of crimes and incidents by WMP to determine the causal effect of the City of Culture event on levels of crimes and incidents in Coventry. These reports will also be used to estimate how individual large events create, remove, or displace crimes and incidents in time, space, and type.

Use of WMP crime data has previously supported impactful doctoral work in Law/ Centre for Operational Police Research (for example, as a result of Trendl and others (2021) WMP now run more domestic violence patrol cars during England matches). 

In combining this data with the qualitative information from the interviews, we will produce a report which demonstrates the benefits and challenges of its community engagement strategy through arts and culture. 

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