This blog has been amended following comment from Dr Clifford Stott, whose feedback I am indebted for. The amendments are in the second last paragraph
One of the public order commanders I work with regularly has a favourite quote which she uses at all her briefings
‘Don’t be the tube on YouTube.’
This reflects how officers are always under scrutiny and a one off incident caused by a lost temper can be uploaded to the Internet and go viral in seconds. One of the challenges for supervisors in public order incidents is managing the attitude of police officers to ensure that they don’t cause an escalation in conflict.
Betari’s Box models how the attitude and behaviour of one person during an interaction affects the other person they interact with in a cyclical way.
The natural outcome of this model is that if there is negative attitudes or behaviour then they will continue to escalate until there is a conflict. Within a protest situation this escalation can affect the attitude of the group and create a ‘crowd’ focussing on the negative attitude of the police.
The model is not an absolute rule and it is possible to break the cycle in various ways. The best way is not to ‘break’ the cycle, but not to become involved in it, not to allow negative attitudes to impact on the attitude of the officers. This is achieved by strong briefing prior to the event and ensuring that officers morale is kept high.
If it becomes apparent that officers are becoming involved in the cycle, then efforts should be made to remove the officers who are being affected before the interaction escalates to conflict. As one senior Tayside Officer put it in the run up to the G8 Conference
Let’s suppose an operational officer gets a custard pie in the face … Saying ‘get a PSU in there quick’ is the wrong answer. Get himout of there. An officer’s been pied by an eejit [idiot] and is boiling about it – get him out of there, cool him down
There is a strong recognition that adopting a positive attitude whilst policing a protest event is beneficial in reducing conflict; plans and briefings always emphasise the policing style to be used, which is usually a positive community focused approach.
It would be naive to assume that conflict is only generated by the interaction. In protest, and other areas of policing, both parties in the exchange are likely to have preconceived notions about the other group. However, an awareness of the cycle of conflict and ensuring positive attitudes and behaviour can positively influence these preconceptions, as happened with the protester liaison teams in Sheffield.
I was introduced to this model during a teaching methods input on an instructors course. It is not taught or recognised to my knowledge as part of public order training or general police training. I have preached it’s value to officers both during public order and during night-time economy policing. If any readers are aware of its use in public order, please let me know.