Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Law

Research Student: Deborah Platts-Fowler

‘Beyond the Riots’ - Policing Social Disorder and Urban Unrest

Photo of Deborah Platts-Fowler

The overarching aim of the study is to understand why urban unrest (rioting) occurs in some places and not others. The literature emerging shortly after the English 2011 riots offered a broad consensus on why rioting occurred in Tottenham, due to the police killing of a young black resident and the police mishandling of a community protest about this. There was less agreement about why disorder occurred elsewhere.

Linked to findings spotlighting the role of the police in previous riots, a case study approach is used to explore how police and partners were able to prevent and limit disorder in 2011.  Recognising that policing does not take place in isolation, the study explores the relevance of local contextual factors; and, given the changing nature of context, particularly as a consequence of austerity measures, the study reflects on preparedness and capability for dealing with future threats to social order.


I completed my undergraduate degree in Anthropology at the University of Durham, and my Masters in Social Science Research Methods at Sheffield Hallam University.

I worked as a social researcher for more than ten years before starting my PhD, researching immigration issues at the Home Office; providing policy advice to the ministerial London Youth Crime Reduction Task Force at the Government Office for London; and conducting public policy research for a range of agencies at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

I was motivated to do a PhD to immerse myself in the academic literature on my areas of interest, and to contribute findings that will hopefully impact on relevant policy and practice.  

What makes me passionate about my subject?

I am interested in policing and urban unrest because I believe that greater understanding in these areas can help inform theories and models of policing and local governance that support security and social order, in ways that are just and fair.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

Upon completion of my PhD I plan to continue my career as a social researcher, but in an academic environment, sharing what I have learned with policy-makers and practitioners through ongoing research and dissemination of findings, and also with students, through teaching.

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