School of Law

Dr Clifford Stott quoted in article detailing a riot at a New Hampshire pumpkin festival

24 October 2014 |

Dr Stott is quoted in the Guardian article which asks whether the police's militarised response escalated the situation.

Entitled "Did police's militarised response to a small town pumpkin patch riot just make it worse?", the article addresses the response of the police force to a town's annual festival.

It appears that police were initially "called out to deal with street partying by students that had got out of hand." However they "deployed officers and Swat teams in full riot gear, and others in military fatigues. They used paintball guns firing pepper balls, pepper spray and teargas on students and partygoers, as well as 40mm guns that fired sponge-bullets."

It emerged that over the course of 12 hours, more than 30 people were injured and 84 arrests were made.

The author highlights that "the central issue is not whether the police involved in the clashes behaved badly – by almost all accounts, officers responded well, under difficult circumstances – but whether a systemic culture of militarisation in American police makes situations like this worse."

Dr Stott is then quoted "We've known for a long time that paramilitary police response – that relies on use of force against crowds as a whole – does escalate disorder."

"Within a large gathering, you might have a small number trying to create confrontation, but the majority are not. When the police respond with indiscriminate use of force, that can create a psychology where previouslydifferentiated people come to see themselves as united. That sense of unity is quite empowering."

Concluding he says "Ironically, the efforts of police to quell disorder can often escalate it."

Read the full article online.

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