Police Liaison Officers
What are Police Liaison Officers?
Previously known as Protest Liaison Officers, Police Liaison Officers (PLOs) were introduced to West Midlands Police in 2010, initially to help police demonstrations. They now play a key role in the force’s management of not just demonstrations, but also other events where engagement and communication with those involved is critical.
PLO’s are selected from the forces best communicators, and their role is to engage in a positive way with participants, ideally from before the event until it is all over. They will ensure everyone is clear on what they can and can’t do within the law, what risks are present but may not be apparent, and will negotiate if necessary to reach a safe and acceptable outcome for everyone. Their ultimate aim is to allow protesters to have their say without over-stepping the mark. As most protesters move around a protest site the PLOs have a roaming brief so can move freely around the protesters trying to identify and deal with any issues
Under human rights legislation the police have a duty to protect the public’s right of assembly and expression, as well as their traditional responsibilities. Policing demonstrations is often a tricky balance of protecting the rights of differing parties present, and those of the local community to go about their daily business without undue difficulty.
The main difference people will notice is PLOs wear light blue jackets to differentiate themselves from other officers. They still wear helmets, stab vests and carry the same protective equipment as an officer would do while patrolling the street. They are fully warranted police officers with the full range of police powers, and conduct this role as an addition to their normal role.
As the force develops its policing of large events we are exploring the potential for using police staff and volunteers to help. We already get help from local communities for some events, where local community leaders will act in an informal community facilitator role to help provide advice, reassurance and help diffuse tensions. If you are interested in helping us with this please contact us.