How to police a large event

How to police a large event

When attending large public events, your focus inevitably is usually on the event itself and having a good time, right? We often take for granted that security and safety measures will be ‘taken care of’ on our behalf.

Behind the scenes of any large scale public event, from Christmas switch-ons to football matches and music festivals, a vast amount of planning and preparation has gone into ensuring your safety. In fact it may surprise you just how many factors influence the policing of such events. So where do you start? How exactly do you police a large event?


What kind of events require police attention?

Notable events include, but are not limited to, community events, music and arts festivals, sporting events, public protests, processions, exhibitions, displays.


Core Principles

According to the College of Policing, there are six core principles that apply to public order policing operations. These are:


Policing Style and Tone

  • Commanders need to establish the policing style from the start and be aware of public perceptions. This includes making sure police are readily identifiable, impartial, approachable and legally compliant.


  • This includes use of engagement and dialogue wherever possible, and maintaining good links with communities, event organisers and partners to build trust. All messages should be planned and unambiguous, and media (including social media) should be used to explain police activity.

Use of the National Decision Model

  • This is the key framework for operational decision making. An audit trail should be utilised to record decisions and show the rationale for them.


  • Public order commanders must be trained, accredited and competent to carry out the job.

Proportionate Response

  • Police powers should be used appropriately and proportionately. Planning should be founded on information and intelligence, with consideration of human rights and the implications of force used.

Capacity and Capability

  • This includes ensuring professionally trained resources and equipment are available to meet local and national public order commitments. For the London 2012 Olympics, 13,000 officers were made available to help ensure the safety and security of the event.



The choice of tactical options that can be deployed at events is huge. Police can decide whether air support, barriers, negotiators, police dogs etc. are required, and also whether officers will need to be armed.

However, each decision must be carefully considered and justified. You can’t deploy barriers where there is no need, and police dogs should not be used for the sake of it, otherwise the police themselves could be perceived as provoking unnecessary distress.

There are also regulations and legislation to abide by, so that both safety and individual rights are not compromised.

Want to learn more about Policing? Our Policing BA (Hons) is offered at CU Coventry, CU London and CU Scarborough.