A Brighton psychologist could help to transform the way protests are policed in Britain.
Dr John Drury, who is based at the University of Sussex at Falmer, has called for a “softly, softly” approach to crowd control in a new report.
It comes as part of a review after the death of Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper seller, during the G20 demonstrations in London earlier this year.
Dr Drury was consulted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary along with two other respected crowd behaviour experts, Dr Clifford Stott, from Liverpool, and Professor Steve Reicher, from St Andrew’s.
They have recommended that police change tactics if they are to avoid unnecessarily violent confrontations.
The HMIC report, Adapting to Protest – Nurturing the British Model of Policing, restates the principles of the traditional British model of policing protests. It calls for approachable, impartial and accountable policing based on minimum force for major public order events.
Dr Drury and his fellow academics emphasised that most crowd members have peaceful intentions and would normally shun advocates of violence.
However, using their theory on the “new psychology of crowds”, they said that this can change if people felt that they were being mistreated by the police.
The academics’ theory formed the basis of the HMIC report’s recommendations.
They said that effective policing should be based on a “dialogue” approach, with three core elements:
an understanding of the aims and intentions of crowd members
a focus on helping crowd achieve legitimate aims and
a series of graded interventions to target those causing disorder without denying the rights of the majority.
Their ideas have already transformed policing in several European countries through the team’s consultancy, led by Dr Stott.
The academics concluded that, if implemented in Britain, they would be equally effective in minimising crowd violence here.
Dr Drury, a social psychologist at Sussex University, said: “Our recommendations form part of a new agenda for the mass democratisation of crowd management.
“We have designed interventions based on our approach and have shown that they work.”