When it comes to policing large events such as protests, avoiding violent outbreaks is a top priority. So what factors contribute to the likelihood of violence ensuing at a protest?
Is it the size of the protest? The nature of the gathering? The police-protest ratio?
Anne Nassauer, a renowned sociologist from the JFK institute and Free University Berlin, conducted a study on effective crowd policing and avoiding protest violence. It was found that there was no relationship between these factors and the likelihood of violence. Even more surprising is that violently motivated protests or the anticipation of violence were also non-factors.
So the question still remains, how do we effectively manage protests and reduce the likelihood of a violent outcome? Nassauer methodically analyzed protests over a 50-year time span in both the US and Germany to answer this very question. Piecing together visual footage, documentation, court data and police and crowd accounts she was able to identify four interactions that are vital for keeping protests peaceful:
Respect Territorial Boundaries
Prior to a sanctioned protest, geographical boundaries should be explicitly set for where the rally can take place and should be communicated to all participating members. In cases where territory boundaries were crossed, tension and fear tended to escalate.
In several examples that Nassauer analyzed, when the crowd made unexpected breaks that crossed designated protest areas, violence often ensued. In one example, protesters made a run for state-parliament which resulted in clashes with police.
Communicate to your officers the importance of maintaining territorial boundaries and have them understand the problematic nature that a breach can cause. The same needs to be understood by members of the crowd. If a dialogue is opened prior to the protest along with proper planning, maintaining territorial boundaries shouldn’t be an issue.
Good Police Management
This one goes without saying, but you would be surprised at the number of violent protests that could have been avoided with strategic planning and clear oversight. Having a plan for how many units you will need, which areas need more patrolling, and how to ensure communication between units is of vital importance. Emphasis on the latter; a clear line of communication needs to be established between command staff and each of their units and feedback should be continuous.
To improve efficiency and communication you should be using a system like InTime that allows you to schedule your officers based on specific locations and give clear shift instructions directly from the scheduling system. Officers can check shift notes, location, and even punch-in to a geo-tagged area straight from their phone. For example, if officers are scheduled to work the East boundary of the protest, they can punch into that specific location. This gives command accurate staffing numbers for each area at all times. Read below to learn about the other ways that InTime can help you in these situations
Absence of Escalation Signs
It is important that both police and crowd avoid actions that the other could interpret as a threat or a sign of escalation. For example, a crowd wearing masks and carrying weapons would likely be interpreted by police as a sign that they are intending to cause harm. In the same way, riot gear and creating rigid blockades would not likely be interpreted as precautionary by the crowd, but as a threat.
Once again, misinterpretation can be resolved with good planning and communication between police and protest organizers. If the organizers explain prior to a rally that some people may be masked to conceal identity and/or if command staff explains that riot gear is a precautionary measure, then it is unlikely that these actions will be interpreted as escalation signs. Equally important is that both sides relay this information to the rest of their staff and demonstrators.
Communication Between Police and Protesters
By far the best predictors of peaceful protests are good police management and communication between police and protesters. Even in examples where the other rules were violated, if these two were kept the situation was often controlled.
Communication between the organizers and command should begin prior to the event to ensure everyone is on the same page by establishing territorial boundaries, expressing their intentions and setting ground rules; this way nothing should come as a surprise. Throughout the event, there should also be a constant flow of communication. It’s important to express intentions frequently and explicitly as possible to assure each side feels in control.
How Else Can InTime Help?
Our robust scheduling software combined with the InTime Mobile app will ensure that you can schedule and manage your staff in any event with ease.
InTime’s extra-duty scheduling allows you to post shifts directly to your officer’s phones. Our system will filter electronic sign-ups based on your agency’s Business Rules. InTime also has your extra-duty scheduling and your day-to-day scheduling in one system so you can improve officer safety and scheduling efficiency.
Find Employees with Proper Training
InTime’s attribute scheduling makes it easy for you to schedule officers with specific skills and training. For example, if you need to quickly find employees with advanced first aid to fill your shifts.
Contact the InTime’s sales team for a demo or a free trial of our product. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-877-603-2830.