Saturday, 30 June 2012

'Mass Panic' not responsible for Love Parade Disaster

Just come across an interesting article that explores the Love Parade Disaster in Duisberg, Germany in  August 2010, where 21 people died and over 500 were injured in a fatal crowd crush. The authors conclude that the tragedy did not happen because of selfish 'mass panic' or a stampede, but because of a phenomenon they call 'crowd-quake' where physical pressures in the crowd created a domino effect whereby people fell over and got crushed by the sheer density of other crowd members.

Therefore, crowd safety management strategies should focus on how to prevent such potentially fatal pressure building up rather than relying on out-dated approaches that assume crowds will behave selfishly and 'panic'- a concept which seems increasingly unreliable in the wake of this report.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Interview on local radio about Police Liaison Teams

I did an interview at 07.40 BST June 21st for BBC Radio Sussex on the recent use of Police Liaison Teams on protests in Brighton and the controversy it generated. They also spoke to a member of the protest group Smash EDO at about 8.30 on the same programme. It should be available on the BBC iPlayer until 28/6/2012 (

What I noticed about the 2 different interviews was that while mine was briefer and I waffled a bit at first, I felt I got much easier treatment from the interviewer than did the speaker from Smash EDO. The presenter was contradicting and interrupting him, and the whole interview seemed much more adversarial than the experience I had. I wonder if this has anything to do with the context in which such interviews are set up, in that so called 'experts' in the field often get treated more respectfully by the media than 'protestors' who can get harsher treatment from journalists. While it makes for a more pleasant experience for me personally when I get asked to speak as an 'academic', it does worry me that people speaking on behalf of protest campaigns may become more reluctant to speak to the media if they feel they are going to be treated unfairly. This could have implications for the balanced representation of such campaigns, and responsible media outlets should encourage balanced and fair reporting- not take sides in sometimes contentious debates.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Upcoming radio programme on crowd behaviour

The BBC's Radio 3 are doing a programme to be broadcast on sun 24th June, where they will be speaking to some of the top experts on the Psychology of crowd behaviour. I won't be on it, as I'm in Malta then, but if there's another revolution in my holiday destination (as there was last time I went on holiday to Tunisia- see here for the details) I'll start blogging furiously!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Report on Aug 2011 riots

Just seen a link to a story by the Voice criticising media coverage of the August 2011 riots in England based on a report put out by academics at the University of Leicester. Not seen the report itself yet, but they highlight that the riots were often falsely portrayed by the media as involving predominantly young black males, which is too simplistic and unfairly stigmatises a section of the community, rather than looking at wider explanations for how the riots happened and spread.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Controversy over use of Police Liaison Officers

The use of Police Liaison Officers at demos in Brighton has generated an interesting debate. My last post detailed how this tactic was developed by Swedish Police (Holgersson & Knutsson, 2011) and was first used in Brighton when the English Defence League appeared over the Jubilee bank holiday weekend, and counter-demonstrators came out to oppose them. These teams were used again during an anti-war march on the bank holiday Monday called by Smash EDO (a campaign against a local factory that makes electronic equipment for military use-

They did not get a good reception from some protestors who objected to their attempts to mingle with the march and did not trust their claims to be attempting increase mutual trust by setting up a dialogue between protestors and Police. I'm not in a position to comment on how genuine the motivations of the Police are in this matter, but I think it shows how historical antagonism can prevent such trust emerging.

Smash EDO have for a long time not trusted the local Police, as there have been allegations of collusion between the Police and the company that owns the factory to obtain information about the protestors for a civil injunction. More recently a high court ruling said that Police were allowed to store information about any protestors on a 'domestic extremism' data-base regardless of their actions or degree of involvement. The case was brought by an 87 year peace activist involved in the Smash EDO campaign, whose details have been recorded on such a database (
Also, one of the current members of the Police liason teams is known to activists as the local intelligence Officer who has collected information on protesors on previous demos. Such historic mistrust may mean that some protest campaigns will find it difficult to trust the intentions of these new Police Liasion Officers, and may be unwilling to engage with them until any such mutual trust emerges. Therefore, consideration of any relevant historical contexts is vital when looking at the use of such teams. 

The debate over the use of PLOs is evolving, and the links below are to FIT watch who criticise their use, followed by a reply from the academic who has helped implement them;
Also follow the debate between Police and protestors via the following Twitter call-signs;
@SusPolPLO, @policemonitor

Holgersson, S. and Knutsson, J. (2011), ‘Dialogue Policing: A Mean for Less Crowd Violence?’ in T. D. Madensen and J. Knutsson, (eds), Preventing Crowd Violence: Crime Prevention Studies. Boulder CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers

Sunday, 3 June 2012

EDL in Brighton part 2

The English Defence League made another abortive attempt to gather in Brighton this weekend. This time around 30 of them congregated in bars around the city, quickly followed by over 100 anti-fascists. After some scuffles near the sea-front, the Police quickly seperated both sides and escorted the EDL in a moving kettle to Brighton station and away from the town.

What I thought was interesting about this incident, was that while there were far more Police on duty than the last march in April (I heard that there were 900 Police from around 10 different forces, with officers drafted in from as far away as Devon and Cornwall), their policing strategy was very different. All officers (except the mounted ones) had baseball caps on (rather than protective helmets), and there were dedicated teams of Police Liaision Officers wearing orange tabards, whose role was to mingle with the protestors and set up a dialogue with them, establish protestors' intentions, and explain what the Police were doing. This mirrors tactics used by the Swedish Police, and has helped to increase trust between Police and protestors and reduce the risk of collective disorder happening.

Time will tell how effective this approach is, but it may mean that demonstrations are policed in a significantly different way if it's adopted as a long-term strategy.

Reports of the day can be found at;