Understanding the psychology of crowds

For any police service, understanding the psychology of crowds is a key factor in handling demonstrators and enabling the police to avoid using force.

Policing approach can determine the nature of the reaction of the crowd. Initiating a dialogue with the crowd can yield positive results. The concept of the ‘Psychology of Crowds’ was thoroughly discussed in a three-day workshop in Jericho by a visiting expert from Portugal.
He showed 10 police officers from Special Police Force Unit, representing the 11 West Bank districts, crowd management approaches, including the gradual use of force, crowd events, and emergency services.

The expert stressed that crowds can be managed more effectively when the police focus on enabling lawful behaviour - such as protests - rather than merely trying to control criminal behaviour through fear and force. “If police interact with people in a friendly and proportionate manner, then they can prevent conflict,” Subintendent Alexandre Vieira said.

At the end of the workshop, which was concluded on Wednesday 10 October 2018, the visiting expert gave the attendees tactics that the police should keep in mind while dealing with crowds. These tactics include: when planning and preparing, keep all possible scenarios in mind, especially the unexpected ones; coordination between all agencies involved; utilisation of personnel who have plentiful first-hand knowledge and skills; communication with the whole crowd, particularly in emergency situations. The event was organized and funded by EUPOL COPPS.