our Impact / operation nicole

How we prevented a terrorist attack by building trust between police and local Muslim communities.

Over an intense weekend, we re-enacted what happens when evidence of a terrorist plot hits a specialist police force. Participants grew in understanding by taking the decisions faced by members of the public and police investigators.

People started the weekend with doubts, mistrust, and a conviction that working together was just not possible. But after an intense weekend of discovering each other’s dilemmas, relationships were transformed. People found new levels of understanding—and trust. Police were able to take better decisions, realising the damage counter-terrorism investigations can cause and discovering ways to create win-win situations.

Our follow up research saw that respondents put their learning into practice, with long-term change in reducing tensions and increasing trust and co-operation.

Preventing a terrorist attack

We ran Nicole events in 50 places across the UK, involving 2600 police officers, statutory partners, and community members. But the one we’re most proud of was in Bristol.

At the end of that Operation Nicole Event, someone approached the police officer he’d bonded with over the weekend. He was worried about a young man he knew: what he was saying, chemical burns on his hands...

The police raided his flat and found the explosives in the fridge, the detonator in the kitchen drawer and the suicide vest hanging in his wardrobe.

Bristol’s Muslim leaders and police came together immediately to manage the media circus and prevent any backlash against the Muslim community. All this was in the scenario they had worked through together on that weekend of ‘Nicole’ – little knowing that soon they would be doing it for real.

Trust saves lives. Although this unique project has now come to an end, we have refined the methods for the new generation of LEO programmes – ‘Learning from Each Other’.