The role of crowd theory in determining the use of force in public order policing
Hoggett, J. and Stoff, C. (2010) The role of crowd theory in determining the use of force in public order policing. Policing and Society, 20 (2). pp. 223-236. ISSN 1043-9463
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10439461003668468
Social psychological research suggests that where police hold a theoretical view of the crowd in line with the ‘classic’ crowd psychology of Gustav Le Bon this can lead to police practices that inadvertently escalate public disorder. This research reflects debates within the criminology literature which suggests that a primary factor governing police tactics is police knowledge. However, the existing research on the specific relationships between police theoretical knowledge of crowds and their practice towards them is limited by its reliance on post hoc data. This paper addresses this limitation by examining the role of police theoretical view of crowd psychology and their operational practice during a high risk football crowd event. The analysis supports the argument that when the police hold a view of the crowd as inherently irrational and dangerous they rely upon tactics of mass containment and dispersal. This study advances the literature by suggesting that this ‘classic’ theoretical view of the crowd is leading to missed opportunities for the police to develop more efficient, effective and less confrontational approaches to the management of public order during crowd events.