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More than a riot: Understanding the role of the police in crowd disturbances and moving toward a theory of police behaviour

Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Civil protests. Music concerts and festivals. Sporting events. Parades and other large-scale celebrations. While these events differ in terms of their purpose, they are fundamentally all the same: they draw large crowds of people into public spaces, and, in the interest of maintaining public safety, they all require the presence of the police to monitor and manage the behaviours of individual crowd members. Even though most of these large-scale public gatherings are peaceful, crowds' proclivity towards violence and destruction appears to be on the rise (Kaplan et al., 2020; Reid, 2020). According to the predominant theories and research on crowds and public-order policing, the manner in which the police respond to the crowd may play a role in influencing whether or not a crowd event ends peacefully (e.g., Wahlstorm, 2007). However, the inability of these theories and studies to account for discrepancies in the effectiveness of police approaches to crowd management across different events suggests there may be more to it than merely the police response that impacts the outcome of a crowd event. Using data collected from a sample of Vancouver police officers following the 2011 Stanley Cup riot, this dissertation explores some of the nuances associated with the policing side of crowd events in three separate, yet related studies. Focusing specifically on the events that transpired during the 2011 Stanley Cup riot, the first two studies explore police perceptions of the utility of the Meet-and-Greet crowd management strategy, and the potential influence the police officers themselves had on the effectiveness of this strategy during the riot. Examining police perceptions of the broader climate of policing around the time of the 2011 Stanley Cup riot, the final study explores the potential role that contextual factors play in shaping the policing of large-scale public events. By highlight some of the challenges and obstacles officers face when policing crowds, these studies may assist in deepening our understanding of public-order policing. This dissertation will outline some of practical and theoretical implications stemming from these results, as well as future directions for research focusing on the policing of large-scale public events.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Davies, Garth
Member of collection
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