Crowd psychology, policing and interactional dynamics: analyzing the early stages of the 2020 protests in the city of Seattle

The Office of the Inspector General for Pubic Safety commissioned a study by two UK researchers on the “crowd psychology” aspects of the interactions between SPD officers and protesters in the summer of 2020. Their final report was published today.

Their recommendations:

  • The current study concludes that, while the SPD has made considerable advances over the last twenty years, it is currently out of step with the latest trends of international police good practice.
  • The study suggests a pressing requirement for the SPD to update and improve its policy, training, and tactical approaches concerning managing crowd situations. In particular, it is important to increase the amount of training available to Incident Commanders who should in turn be accredited to perform that role.
  • The analysis presented in this report also suggests that, while SPD strategy is already facilitation focused, there is considerable opportunity to further develop its policy and training, particularly as this relates to crowd psychology and interactional dynamics
  • This study provides further support for the recommendation that to realize its strategic ambitions the SPD needs to enhance the Department’s capacity to manage the dynamics of crowd events through dialogue with crowd participants.
  • In addition, it is recommended that work is undertaken to explore the viability and nature of changes to the legislation surrounding public assembly in Seattle.

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