Focuses on humanising officers and educating the public around the diversity of roles that exist in the Metropolitan Police Service.
|Does it work?||
Untested – new or innovative
Diversity and inclusion
Ethics and values
Voluntary/not for profit organisation
|Stage of practice||
The practice is implemented.
|Scale of initiative||
Children and young people
This initiative is designed to build trust, confidence and legitimacy in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) by humanising officers and educating the public around the diversity of roles that exist in the force.
The aim of the initiative is about showing the public that police officers are humans too – they are part of a community and part of a family. They are people with thoughts and feelings and opinions. Where possible, there is a focus on black, Asian and ethnic officers and staff to highlight the diversity of the workforce.
- Address low trust and confidence by humanising staff and officers as they explain why they joined policing, the challenges they face and what they achieve.
- Increase interest from rarely heard groups to join the police and governance structures.
- Increase collaborative opportunities with black communities.
At Behind the Badge events, officers of all ranks and backgrounds speak on a range of local channels, such as local radio stations, social media platforms, local newspapers, online news sites and face-to-face summits. The officers talk candidly about their jobs, why they joined the MPS and the experiences they have been through. They then take questions from the audience or listeners.
Behind the Badge originated following the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. The initiative seeks to decrease tensions and improve relationships between the MPS and black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. Behind the Badge does this through making use of communication channels that are frequently used by the community.
The channels used by Behind the Badge include social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. These are often used through their livestream features and through reaching out to relevant influencers on that platform. Behind the Badge has also started to branch out into face-to-face summits.
Social media interviews and discussions
The first steps for Behind the Badge were for a designed force single point of contact (SPOC). The force SPOC built contacts from media platforms, using existing networks (such as networks for black officers and women’s networks) and reaching out to influencers whose followers were connected with local communities. The designated SPOC in this case was the lead of the Black Police Networking Strand (BPNS).
The second step was for the SPOC to find officers and staff who wish to be interviewed or take part in the discussion, with a focus on black, Asian and ethnic minority officers to ensure rapport with the audiences and that they are able to talk about their experiences from their own perspective.
The first appearance was on 75 Derby Radio in East London, which was used as a pilot. There have since been several other media appearances on multiple other platforms, such as YouTube.
The show with Zeze Millz had 122k views with 2.5k likes. It was also featured on several shared platforms and led to interaction with the MPS Twitter.
More than 130 media interviews have been conducted so far. Anecdotal feedback suggests they are having a positive impact. However, there has been no formal evaluation activity.
Face to face summits
Following the success of these appearances and feedback from the community, Behind the Badge evolved into larger scale face-to-face summits to increase interaction between the public and police.
What face-to-face summits include
Influencers advertise, market, and host the summits at targeted locations. Police officers and staff attend as guests to interact with the audience in a setting that's designed to maximise authenticity. The summit is made up of the following parts.
- A panel of senior officers – the aim is to make the panel as diverse and representative of the audience as possible. The influencers will ask the panel a series of questions and the audience can take part in a Q&A session. Previous summits have used a comedian influencer, who was able to make the events fun despite historical local tensions between the police and the community the summits were held for. The organising team reflected that this approach worked well.
- A series of stalls or stands around the room made up of varying commands (such as firearms and police staff) that attendees can visit to have conversations with officers and staff to find out more about what they do. Some officers do not attend in uniform to ensure they can build rapport with community members. Some have their uniforms hanging up behind them during the panel discussions, so they can portray they are a human outside of the uniform. Stalls can include:
- Outreach teams – as forces wish to increase the diversity of their make-up, it is an opportunity to allow community members to find out more about being part of the police service, find out about the array of jobs available and register their interest if they wish.
- Mounted branch and the dog support unit – one summit had police horses, police dogs and dog handlers at the event.
- Other stalls that the audience may find inviting (for example, traffic and vintage police cars).
- Food from the culture of the audience we are trying to build relationships with. This helps ensure it feels like a relaxed, community event.
Organising the summits is a collaboration between neighbourhoods, outreach teams and others. They can include a lot of cross-departmental work from areas such as taskforce. It's important that engagement continues to be everyone’s responsibility. However, the summits are often hosted by influencers themselves, with the marketing and advertising (including making flyers) produced by the influencers to reach the target audience. Events have also been ticketed using Eventbrite or Shoobs (which is a similar platform to Eventbrite but includes more community-related events).
Depending on the size of the summit, a good lead time is two to three months for a summit with approximately 100 attendees. For the summits to date, the force SPOC had a total of six influencers who were responsible for marketing, advertising, DJing, and hosting – as well as driving the external buzz around the event.
Internally, the summits require approximately 10 or so people to run. Typically the designated borough or command SPOC is responsible for the coordination of the event, officer and staff volunteers, the local outreach team (who would be there to represent recruitment) and special constables.
Three summits have now been carried out. Anecdotal feedback suggests they are positively impacting the relationships between the police and black communities in the targeted areas. However, there has been no formal evaluation activity.
Interview and discussion content
The aim of the initiative is to show the public that police officers are humans too. It focuses on the careers and experiences of the individual officers at the event (particularly black, Asian, ethnic minority and female officers), rather than the system as a whole.
Due to this, and to avoid other topics dominating the discussion, interviewers are given a pre-set list of questions to ask (which is often the influencer or radio presenter). However, discussions should be open and truthful to gain the trust of the community. The questions are therefore not entirely prescriptive and the presenter can deviate from them where appropriate. Topics typically discussed during interviews include:
- officers speaking about their roles and careers to date
- why officers joined the police in the first place and how this was received by family, friends and their community
- perks of being an officer – such as pay, benefits and pension
- why we want more black and rarely heard groups to join the MPS, why we want the MPS to reflect the communities it serves and why we need more black role models
- what people need to do if they are thinking about joining the police
The interviewees can also be prepped with any information they need, such as relevant statistics or figures.
Social media and radio interviews do not cost anything outside of officer time when they are organising and providing interviews. Time must be taken to prepare the questions as although there is a template that can be used, there may be tailored questions for that community. (For example, if something has happened in that community, it's likely that questions from the audience will be related to it. Attendees will have to find out what can be shared in response to them.)
The face-to-face summits are more resource-intensive given their larger scale. The summits require extractions from attending units. The influencers conduct much of the planning and organisation, including finding a suitable venue (given they are in the community and know where is seen as a community hub) and advertising the summit. However, there needs to be a police officer or staff to collaborate with the influencers.
An example of costs for a summit was the Woolwich Behind the Badge event. This was hosted at the local job centre. £2,650 included food, music and influencer costs. Use of the job centre was free. The reach of the event was more than 1,000 members of the community with catering provided for 100 people.
Expanding the reach
Although the initiative is largely focused on black communities and black officers, it has recently expanded its reach into other rarely heard groups. This includes female and LGBT+ attendees, as well as Asian communities.
Due to the nature of trying to improve trust and confidence in the police, it's difficult to measure and evaluate the impact of Behind the Badge. More quantitative data is required.
Some data collection has been carried out, which includes the following.
- A survey at one of the summits, but the response rate was low. A QR code was used, which relied on people scanning and clicking it. There's also a risk of attendees feeling that the event is only being held to demonstrate the MPS are doing something or collecting their data – you don’t want to lose the authenticity of the event.
- Reaching out to the influencers and arranging a face-to-face feedback session. This covered what worked and what didn’t work, and any feedback they received from the audience and their followers after the event. The results from the feedback sessions were helpful. For example, this provided the idea of the face-to-face summit as a suggestion on how to grow Behind the Badge.
- Comments gathered during Facebook live were generally positive. (During the live stream listeners can post comments, which can be gathered to look at the general feeling towards the session.)
The impact of the initiative has not been formally evaluated and therefore impact cannot be fully assessed.
Largely the feedback that has been gathered is anecdotal and based on lived experience. This includes being aware of an individual who registered their interest in working for the police at an outreach team stall and is now in the service.
Anecdotal feedback suggests that the initiative is positive and that the sessions are generating necessary conversations between the police and rarely heard communities.
Lived experience of colleagues working on the sessions and anecdotal feedback indicates the following.
- People have understood what it is like to work in policing from their lived experiences, which has led to humanising officers. This in turn has created an interest in joining the police and governance structures, such as ward panels and independent advisory groups.
- From face-to-face feedback, the MPS believes the human interaction has started to build trust and confidence in those who have taken part in Behind the Badge.
- An unintended benefit has been realised through feedback from black police officers who took part in Behind the Badge. Their feedback is that the platform has given them a voice in line with the pillars of procedural justice, which has led to increased self-legitimacy as well as alliance with the organisation.
- A growing number of influencers from black communities have since collaborated with the MPS, leading face-to-face Behind the Badge summits. Planning for future summits continues.
Ideas for further evaluation could include:
- using data from ticketed events to contact individuals afterwards to find out how they found the event through a quick survey
- gathering feedback via influencers in a more structured way, such as asking the influencers to reach out to their followers on a more formal basis
What makes the initiative successful
- Success relies on using diverse communication channels, social media and radio outlets that the police would not traditionally partner with. This helps build trust in the communities who engage with those outlets.
- Listening to community influencers has allowed Behind the Badge to evolve in line with community needs and ensures the sessions can be somewhat tailored to meet these. This can even help when trying to find a venue for the face-to-face summits, as the influencer will know where is seen as an appropriate place. Although media and communications teams within the service can be used to gain access to relevant people, audiences and platforms, influencers tend to have a better understanding of the community and any sensitivities or cultural aspects at a ground level. Their knowledge is vital in making the event a success.
- The force must be prepared to fund these events to make them successful. This includes funding food and beverages for attendees in line with the culture of the community the session is trying to build a relationship with.
- Having refreshments at the face-to-face events makes them more friendly and welcoming with a community feel, so is an important aspect of the larger scale summits. Creating a social atmosphere by providing food, drink and music (live DJ) is in line with what many communities associate with celebration.
- Having officers out of uniform when they are interviewed (particularly if it's filmed) and when attending summits helps to build rapport as they are seen as normal human beings as opposed to someone in a uniform. Some officers had their uniforms hanging behind them (particularly when running a stand at the summits) to still represent their force or service, but so they weren't seen as being there as a police officer.
- Having a set list of questions or topics to be explored in interview discussions helps the conversation to humanise the officers there in the room, rather than deviating to whole police service topics. It can also help to prepare the interviewees with statistics they may need to know or questions they may be asked, so they do not feel they are put on the spot.
- Selling the vision to influencers can help to build those relationships, so both parties are on board with what the session is trying to achieve.
- Make the event (particularly the face-to-face summits) a friendly and welcoming environment. For example, avoid having security on the doors as this can send out the wrong message and may put people off from attending.
- Senior leader buy-in is extremely important to ensure these events have the backing to run.
- Bureaucracy can slow down progress and this was recognised after the pilot. A senior officer agreed that the authority to make decisions should be devolved, so decision-making could be more streamlined.
- Risk assessments have to be carried out, but decisions should be devolved so these processes do not slow progress of the initiative or put people off from trying it in their own force.
- Evaluation is a challenge given the issues previously outlined. Data can be captured through the use of surveys, but the issuing of these should be done sensitively.
A lack of understanding around how impactful social media is can also be a challenge, particularly from senior ranks where buy-in is required. The mechanisms within this initiative (the use of influencers) is fairly innovative, so those creating the sessions must be prepared to sell the benefits of this way of doing things, drawing upon past successes.