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Improving police practice: Strengths and drawbacks of police and protester dialogue

June 13, 2012

David Baker of Criminal Justice presented at the Stockholm Criminology Symposium 2012 on Wednesday, June 13th 

 Improving police practice: Strengths and drawbacks of police and protester dialogue

 This paper argues that a negotiated management approach, although limited, plays a significant role in preventing violence between police and protesters. Such dialogue sets parameters and expectations for behaviour of both sides, limits surprises and establishes some rapport for future events. The “dialogue police” in Sweden are arguably the exemplar of this approach.

 “Negotiated management”, as opposed to repressive 1960s policing, entails a general respect for the right to protest, on-going communication, under-enforcement of the law, and force used only as a last resort. Police remain dominant in the process because the “soft” response of police is based on the compliance of demonstrators. Police determine acceptable behaviour, rally permits, times and places and thus limit the risk of violent disruption. Liaison between police and protest organizers can sometimes adopt the form of ritualistic dialogue as each seek information first-hand about the other’s likely tactics.

Dialogue has significantly decreased the number and intensity of street clashes between police and demonstrators in Australia and elsewhere. Despite considerable militaristic capabilities, riot personnel and technology in Australia have only been deployed on a very limited basis to date.  However, negotiated management fails if protesters engage in direct action by assailing institutions, threatening basic infrastructure or taking over the streets (Seattle 1999, G20 in Melbourne 2006). Sydney APEC 2007 is an example of police utilization of exclusionary tactics and prearrest strategies in a less violent setting than many European countersummit confrontations.

Ideally, the negotiated management model demands transparent communication, whenever expedient, and trust of both police and protesters to facilitate peaceful protest without excluding or dispersing protesters.

 This research explores theoretical concepts in relation to the police-protester dynamics. The methodology incorporates a number of case studies from Australia and elsewhere. The findings highlight some aspects of best practice in preventing violence during police-protester encounters.

From → Policing

One Comment
  1. Rebecca permalink

    G’day Dr Baker, great to see you on the net! I remember the great lectures you gave a few years ago – working in the field now, and often reflect back on your wisdom. Rebecca.

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