Police often provoke protest violence, UC researchers find
Violent protests can often be unintentionally provoked by aggressive law enforcement tactics like approaching demonstrators in riot gear or the use of military-style formations, according to a team of researchers at UC Berkeley.
"Everything starts to turn bad when you see a police officer come out of an SUV and he’s carrying an AR-15," said Nick Adams, a sociologist and fellow at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Data Science who leads the Deciding Force Project. "It just upsets the crowd."
The researchers found that some law enforcement agencies are taking less provocative measures to calm the crowd.
During the Occupy protests, for example, police in some cities deployed officers in small clusters rather than in skirmish lines. Such cities tended to see fewer clashes between demonstrators and police, the researchers said.
"When it’s two or three officers, protesters don’t get intimidated," Adams said. "They may even talk with the police."
Read more about steps some law enforcement agencies are taking to reduce protest violence