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Project: Understanding the lessons of policing the Covid-19 pandemic

Monday 20 July 2020



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, are undertaking new research into how policing has coped with Covid-19.

What are we looking at?


Through a combination of statistical analysis and qualitative research, this project will seek to identify 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

A report, to be published by the end of 2020, will make 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 will inform the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, chaired by Sir Michael Barber, which will report in June 2021.

Scope of research

In the first phase, the project will evaluate the impact of Covid-19 on police workload and workforces, and how forces managed in response. The project will also use 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 will seek to understand how effective the police response has been. It will explore 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 will be done 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 will seek to understand 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 will explore 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 will consider the implications of the police response to the pandemic for the future of the police service. We will determine 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 will examine 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

Rick Muir, Director, Police Foundation

Jon Clements, Director of Development, Crest

Mike Skidmore, Police Foundation

Jessica Lumley, Senior Analyst, Crest

Elisabeth Aitkenhead, Police Foundation

Savas Hadjipavlou, Chief Analyst, Crest

Ellie Covell, Strategy and Insight Manager, Crest

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

How can you get involved?


If you would like to share your experience or insights with us, please contact Jon Clements,

To keep up to date with all the latest on the project, sign up to Crest's enewsletter.

The Police Foundation is the only independent think tank focused exclusively on improving policing and developing knowledge and understanding of policing and crime reduction.


The UK's only consultancy dedicated to crime and justice.

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