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Policing the Covid-19 pandemic


The Covid-19 outbreak has presented policing in England and Wales with an unprecedented challenge. Enforcing restrictions never placed on the public in peacetime, adjusting to major shifts in crime, and ensuring the safety of officers and staff are among the many operational changes forces are responding to. However, the necessity of ‘doing business a different way’ may also represent a unique opportunity to reconsider how policing is delivered in England and Wales, instead of defaulting back to ‘business as usual’. 

Crest alongside the Police Foundation, the UK’s policing think tank, carried out research into how policing has coped with Covid-19. 


How did we carry out the research?

Through a combination of statistical analysis and qualitative research, this project identified the strengths and weaknesses of the current policing model in England and Wales, with a particular focus on: 

  • structures 

  • use of technology 

  • strategic planning, and; 

  • public consent 

The final report made recommendations for improvements to ensure that the opportunity to learn from the current crisis is taken ahead of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice. The findings informed the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, chaired by Sir Michael Barber, which reported in March 2022.


What did we look at?  

In the first phase, the project evaluated the impact of Covid-19 on police workload and workforces, and how forces managed in response. The project used forecasting techniques to model the impact of deferred and delayed investigations on workload in the longer term, and the potential impact of longer term factors on demand, such as significant economic disruption and hardship in the future. 

In the second stage, the project examined how effective the police response has been. It explored how forces, locally and nationally, have reconfigured their work to cope with the crisis, what the impact of this has been on key measures of public safety, and what this tells us about the resilience or otherwise of existing policing structures. This was carried out through quantitative analysis, and through structured interviews with Chief Officers, PCCs and officials from the Home Office, HMICFRS and other agencies. 

In the third stage, we examined the impact of the policing of the lockdown on public perceptions of the police and the implications for police legitimacy and our model of policing by consent. In particular, we explored through polling and focus groups whether the public believes that the police have used their powers fairly and proportionately, whether the police enjoy the same degree of public sympathy as other key workers involved in responding to Covid-19, and whether views differ by age, ethnicity and other factors. 

The fourth stage considered the implications of the police response to the pandemic for the future of the police service. We determined what lessons can be learned from the police response to Covid-19 for police governance and organisational structures (including the 43-force model) and for the police operating model, and how this can better reflect the post-Covid-19 crime landscape. In addition, we examined what lessons there may be for police workforce strategy, to ensure that the 20,000 officer uplift is matched with a strategy to provide police officers and staff with the skills, capabilities and resilience they need through the 2020s.


Team and governance 
Crest and the Police Foundation have brought together an integrated team to undertake this work, reflecting the complementary skill sets of the respective organisations: 


  • Harvey Redgrave, Chief Executive, Crest Advisory

  • Rick Muir, Director, Police Foundation 

  • Jon Clements, Director of Development, Crest Advisory

  • Mike Skidmore, Police Foundation 

  • Jessica Lumley, Senior Analyst, Crest Advisory

  • Elisabeth Aitkenhead, Police Foundation 

  • Savas Hadjipavlou, Chief Analyst, Crest Advisory

  • Ellie Covell, Strategy and Insight Manager, Crest Advisory

Expert advisory group

  • Martin Hewitt, Chair of National Police Chiefs' Council

  • Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner

  • Olivia Pinkney, Chief Constable of Hampshire Police

  • Mike Cunningham, Chief Executive, College of Policing  

  • Owen Weatherill, ACC Operation Talla

  • Rt Hon Charles Clarke

  • Professor Ben Bradford, University College London

Project publications

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