New approaches to crowd psychology are helping police manage the potential for conflict in crowds while allowing people's rights to protest through dialogue and negotiation.

Impacts

  • Dr Clifford Stott assisted in the design and implementation of a police use of force strategy for the 2004 UEFA European Football Championships. His ESRC research subsequently provided evidence that this policing approach contributed to the low levels of violent confrontation during the tournament
  • Proposals based upon Dr Stott's research were accepted as amendments to the 2005 and 2010 editions of the European Union's Handbook on International Police Cooperation and Measures to Prevent and Control Violence and Disturbances in Connection with Football Matches with an International Dimension
  • In 2006, the UK Home Office Public Order Unit incorporated Stott's findings in its strategy for managing fans travelling to international football
  • Reforms to the Association of Chief Police Officers' national guidance on the policing of public order in the UK (2010) were drawn directly from Dr Stott's input into the Inspectorate of the Constabulary’s (HMIC) inquiry into public order policing, following the G20 protest in London in 2009
  • Dr Stott's research is incorporated directly into the College of Policing National Police Public Order Training Curriculum (2010)
  • Dr Stott has advised and trained police commanders across Europe and Australia. His research underpinned the €1.1 million Pan European Football Police Training Project, delivering customised training to 250 police officers from 21 countries
  • He also helped design, develop, train and implement the UK's first Police Liaison Teams (2011).

"Dr Clifford Stott has worked with the Metropolitan Police Service to research and develop theory which has fundamentally changed the way in which we manage crowd events and protest." (Mark Rowley, Assistant Commissioner, Specialist Crime and Operations, Metropolitan Police)

About the research

Crowds are beginning to be policed very differently than they were a decade ago, following the adoption of new crowd management approaches developed by Dr Clifford Stott of the University of Leeds.

Building on initial ESRC-funded PhD research, Dr Stott and colleagues developed a model of crowd conflict now widely viewed as the leading psychological theory of its kind. Based on his work to engage this theory with policy, police forces in the UK and further afield are reforming crowd strategy and practices with the aim of reducing conflict by ensuring that crowds can have their say.

"Our research shows that heavy-handed policing can actually provoke crowd conflict," Dr Stott explains.

Yet there was considerable resistance in policy circles to the idea that police were in some way responsible for the production of 'disorder'. Many believe that forceful policing is essential in order to control crowds and act as deterrence. Dr Stott's research provided powerful evidence that crowds can be managed more effectively when the police concentrate on enabling lawful behaviour - such as protests - rather than merely trying to control criminal behaviour through fear and force. In other words, if police interact with people in a friendly and proportionate manner, then they can prevent conflict.

Today, Dr Stott's ideas permeate police training and policy as well as the recent introduction of new police 'liaison units' designed to avoid conflict through dialogue. Key to Dr Stott's approach is the idea of 'human-rights compliant' policing, which is based on ideas of dialogue, negotiation and facilitation as well as legitimate and proportionate police activity.