Studying riots in real-time
(Translated summary of Chapter 1)
Hooligans, rioters, officers
Violence and use of force in riot situations
© Otto Adang

Hooligans, autonomen, agenten. Geweld en politieoptreden in relsituaties
Alphen aan den Rijn, Samsom, 1998, ISBN 90-387-0649-9
Riots, or more generally, different forms of collective violence are experienced as a problem. Large-scale violence or the threat thereof, occurs in the form of soccer vandalism, as a result of diverse forms of protest actions or during festive activities. Riots are experienced as problems because of the violence itself (and its consequences) or because of the efforts made to prevent or repress it. Over the years many sociological and social psychological publications have appeared about "collective behavior" or "crowd behavior" (Turner and Killian, 1972 and Mcphail, 1991 give an excellent overview). The extensive social-scientific literature about the behavior of crowds and the behavior of people in crowds is often based on restricted information and unsubstantiated interpretations according to the American sociologist Berk (1970). This diagnosis is, in essence, also supported by the Dutch sociologists Cachet and Valkenburgh (1973). Berk (1970) perceived that investigations into "crowd behavior" concentrated on the conditions immediately preceding the events and the subsequent consequences and not on the more difficult to examine mass process itself. Mass processes are difficult to examine because a great number of things happen in quick succession, simultaneous-ly and spread out over a large area while they are difficult to foresee.
The crowd processes leave little or no trace afterwards (the results, naturally, are visible) so that investigators often quickly resort to retrospective reports in which there are numerous conscious and unconscious distortions. When present, investigators often stand at a distance because of their own safety.
Despite insufficient data, investigators nevertheless frequently express an opinion over what happens in or with crowds. With this interpretation, one runs the risk of falling into a number of traps. Berk (1970) distinguishes five such pitfalls:

1.Crowd behavior is often characterized as irrational, instinctive, bestial or demonical, produced by emotions that are disconnected from reason or moral. As a matter of fact there is hardly any information about what happens to people in crowds and consequently no information to make comparisons with the daily behavior of people.

2.Instead of correct descriptions and sound theories metaphores are often presented. Analogies with physiological/chemical (chain reactions, turbulence) and biological (herd forming, animal behavior) phenomena are often employed. An example of this is the extension of the saying "soccer is war" to soccer violence.

3.Often different analysis levels are tangled. Concepts on an individual level are used to analyze the behavior of groups and visa versa. So, consequently groups are attributed with their own desires and emotions. To add further to Berks (1970) third point, analyses on the causes and the goals of behavior are often tangled with one another as well.

4.It is often assumed that all individuals in a crowd have the same motives or are much alike in other ways. The homogeneity attributed to crowds is artificial because of the lack of information on separate individuals.

5.Speculations are made on the processes that occur in the crowd, based on events prior to the crowd or on the results of the crowd's behavior, without these speculations being verified.

These inclinations in the social-science literature have not been without consequence for the views held in the police force and police schools (e.g. Cromwell & Lewis, 1971; Schmidt, 1972; van de Sande et al., 1987; Bijl unpub). By describing the pitfalls Berk (1970) hoped to stimulate investi-gators to collect data relevant to their speculations, direct investiga-tions to the mass process itself and be critical with regard to the source of their information. To the present day this does not appear to have been accomplished. The endeavors using objective non-participation observations conducted up until this moment concerned mainly the type of riot that is difficult to observe, namely around festive events. Dutch examples are riots accurring at New Years Eve, Queen's Birthday, "Luilak" and "The Night of Assen" (Buikhuisen, 1965; Cachet and Valkenburgh, 1973; Van Reenen, 1975; Riss-Lambers, 1976; de Vries, 1981).
Most details on riot situations are anecdotal, indirect, qualitative and do not supply the answers to questions with respect to the behavior of the people in such situations. This is not a problem as long as investiga-tors, when reproducing their results and developing their conclusions, confine themselves to the questions that their data answer. Speculations over the processes that play a role in riot situations should be expressed in testable hypothesize or otherwise excluded if they are not based on accurately documented facts. However, this is not what usually occurs. Because of these reasons I have chosen to conduct an observational study to investigate the events during potential riot situations. The focus lies on the factors in the interaction between violent offenders and the police. The study does not examine the deeperlying causes or the background of riots but concentrates on the short-term processes which produce violent behavior in group situations and influence the course and conclusion of such processes.
The aim of this investigation is two-fold.
1.In the first place to describe: what happened, who performed which behavior against whom and under what circumstances.
2.In the second instance to look at the factors that promote or supress the expression of violence.
This investigation differs in a number of respects from earlier studies that were attempted because:
- the investigation is quantitative in nature;
- the investigation does not just look at one or a few events;
- the investigation does not only deal with "crises" (Cachet and Valkenburgh, 1973; Rosenthal, 1984) but looks at mutually comparable situations, some of which may develop into a riot or crisis and others do not.

For the description and analysis those variables were used that could relatively well be observed in a systematic way. The assumption is that these are the variables that can be discerned by the involvees as well and that exercise an influence on the situation. The variables were chosen after a preliminary investigation on the basis of my own observations (both of real-life situations and of video material) or on the basis of relevant information given in the literature. These variables include: the number of people involved, the distance between those involved, the relationship between behaviour and directly preceding events etc. The study therefore examines the influence of these indepent variables on the "seriousness" of the violence as the dependent varia-ble.

There are different ways to measure 'violence': the kind of violence used, the number of individuals that used violence, the duration of the use of violence and the frequency with which violence was used. It is these measures that are used in this report rather than measures that focus on the outcome of the use of violence, such as material damage, number wounded, number arrested.

By looking back in time one can ascertain which contextual factors appeared together with violence. Looking forward one can diagnose which effects of violence influen-ced the progress or repetition of violence. In this the focus especially lies on the presence of the police: what options were taken to prevent or stop violen-ce, what measures did they employ, in how far did they use violence themselves? By comparing a great number of group situations (in some of which violence was used) it may be possible to obtain more insight into what influences the behaviour of people in riot situations

Observation methods
The main investigation period lay between May 1986 and September 1989. In the course of the investigation I was present at 225 events where I conducted approximately 700 hours of observations, divided over
-  78 soccer matches
-139 protest actions
-    8 festive events.
Especially those events were observed where there seemed to be a considerable chance that violence would occur. The most difficult observational conditions occurred during festive events: many individuals, spread over a large area, without clear perceptible risk groups or risk places. Because of this, observations from festive events were not analysed.

In all cases I made observations on locations that were in principle accessible to anyone i.e. on public roads and in stadiums. I walked around with a photobag over my shoulder and a portable cassette recorder in my jacket pocket, while I listened into the policechannels via a scanner. The observations were recorded onto the tape of the portable cassette recor-der. These observation methods do not deviate from customary ethological methods implayed in field investigations. I have had extensive experience using these methods in field investigations (see for example Adang, 1984). I chose positions in such a way that I had an overview of the events (thus usually not in the middle of a group but at the edge or a short distance away). With every event there were always bystanders present, the press etc., so that my presence was not conspicu-ous.
As fast as possible after finishing each observation the cassette tape was transcribed. Besides the taping and systematic protocol, I also made a dairy where observations and impressions were recorded in an unsystematic manner. Besides this, other information (pamphlets, articles from papers etc.) related to the events were placed in separate archive. Finally any television broadcast related to the events were recorded onto videotape.
In approximately half of the cases I made contact with the local police before taking an observation. This contact was especially important for the following reasons:
-to obtain entrance where necessary/desirable;
-to increase my own safety;
-to acquire information.
With every investigation it is important to be aware of possible investigation effects: the activities of the investigation itself can influence the final results. In this case it appears that there were no or hardly any undesirable investigation effects:

-the investigation concerned events that already drew a great deal of inte-rest. There was usually, except for those directly, involved a great number of observers present (such as press). One was always under constant surveillance.
-if the investigator made contact with the local police it was done at such a late stage that the scenario and course of action were all set.
-if the investigator made contact with the local police it did not mean that everyone involved knew about this investigation; the investigator was in only one case introduced to the complete police personnel.
-to exclude investigation effects as much as possible and to test explicitly whether or not contacting the police beforehand made a difference, in a number of cases no contact beforehand was made with the police.
Wherever possible, after the finish of observations, the observations were checked through with police made video-tapes, police accounts, and reports in the press and action papers.

In the course of the whole investigation I did not make any attempt to have contact with soccer supporters, demonstrators and such like. The reasons were:
-to reduce the risk of investigation effects;
-their views are good to obtain from written material
-who should you approach: a great number of individuals were observed and it was impossible to have contact with everyone
-it was paramount that I never came into the role of a person who could have exerted an influence on events by passing information from one of the parties involved to another.

As in every observational investigation the study was subject to limitations especially as I was the sole obser-ver. Accordingly it was impossible to oversee a group that was larger or more spread than expected. Although the size of most group situations usually remained within reasonable bounds, I limited my systematic observations to a part of the group that was surveyable. From experience it appeared that in virtually all situations the circumstances were such that this was possible. Beside this I was not bound to one place but could walk around. Most events were spread over a broad time span and were nearly always accompanied  by audible vocalizations or other sounds. All this made it possible to exactly record "all" occurrences of a limited number of perceptible behaviors. (The "all-occurrence" method; Lehner, 1979).
Possible subjectivity is another problem with observational investigati-ons, particularly those concerning the behavior of people. A thorough training in practical situations occurred during the preliminary study and helped to overcome subjectivity. Similarly I was trained to make a clear distinction between emotions, interpretations and observations. Besides this, subjectivity was reduced by making use of a limited number of well described and clearly perceptible behaviors and behavioral categories. Finally I attempted as much as possible to avoid subjectivity by viewing videos and reading reports after the observation period. I have had no past history as a police officer, protestor or soccer supporter: before the start of this investigation I had never been in a soccer stadium or present at a protest, in a police station only to pay a summary.
Violence: every directed  behavior that has a chance of causing damage and/or bodily pain namely:
-physical violence (hitting, kicking, biting) with or without use of an object;
-a directed throw to one or more individuals;
-a directed throw with a hard article to an object;
-(attempted) demolition of an object.
So, for example, the undirected throwing of fireworks was not classified as violence; while throwing fireworks directly at a person was classified as violence. The climbing of gates was classified as violence only if accompanied by systematic gate pulling in an attempt to destruct them.
A police charge where there was no use of a baton (or no other form of violence was applied) was not noted as violence. The arrest of an indivi-dual was not on its own a reason to classify it as a violent initiative.
The last two behaviors were noted as a form of forceful measure by the police. Every act by police officials that compelled individuals or groups to read with a certain behavior was regarded as a forceful measure. In applying forceful measures police personell could or could not use violence (in the above sense). Three forms of frequently applied forceful measure were distinguished:
-arrest:  one must accompany the police
-denial: one can not proceed further
-removal: one must go away.
Detainment and removal are easy to observe behaviors. On the contrary there are many places and moments where individuals or groups are denied access. Denial was classified as such if a group was hindered in their propulsion or if a group exercised pressure and did not accept that an entrance or street was blocked.

Besides violence and forceful measures other forms of behavior were registered which could be seen as annoying, provocative or violent-promoting:
-words or gestures which offended or threatened another person.
-blocking a street or an entrance to a building.

All these cases of violence, violence-promoting behavior and forceful measures were recorded exclusively if they were directed at a person outside of one's own group. At the same time the following factors were also recorded:
-point of time and order of behaviors;
-number of people that executed the behavior (estimation);
-target of the behavior;
-reaction to the behavior; divided into:
-violent reactions
-offending and threatening reactions
-flight and evasive reactions.
-peacemaking reactions (attempt to talk or pacify);
-neutral reactions (take-up other quiet positions);
-remaining reactions (in fact ignored).
-the situation directly preceding the demonstration of the behavior (within 2 minutes). The situation was differentiated into the follo-wing contexts:
-preliminary violence (by another actor or by the same actor, but directed at another target);
-preliminary forceful measures;
-preliminary provocations;
-preliminary competition (space-competition, object-competition).
-specific circumstances (e.g. soccer goalpoint).

On the basis of the observational results collected during the preliminary investigation, an interaction was considered ended if actors and targets did not interact in one of the manners described above for two minutes. A display against the same target after this period was classified as a new initiative, while a display within this period was considered as having the same initiative (and this was calculated as the same interaction).

At the beginning of every observation and with any changes, the broader context of the events were noted, such as:
-weather conditions;
-number of people present;
-the external appearance of those involved (unrecognizable, protected, armed).
In addition to this the following types of police were distinguished as:
-regular police in daily uniform;
-mounted police;
-dog handlers;
-'arrest squads' in civilian dress;
-mobile units, with or without full riot gear.
The distance between those involved, in four categories in combination with the presence/ absence of physical barriers
-talk/hit distance (approx 0,5 m): a distance from where it is possible to hold a conversation or cause bodily harm;
-throwing distance (approx 30 m): it is impossible to hold a normal conversation or cause bodily harm, but possible to throw an object;
-beyond a possible throwing distance;
-participants invisible or inaudible.

All observations were divided into different phases (Wright; 1978):
-'convergence': meeting phase where the individuals gathered;
-"task": the official aim of the meeting, such as demonstrating or watching a soccergame;
-'divergence': phase where the individuals separate again and the temporary group ceases to exist.
The different phases represent temporary group formation that characterizes riot situations. These different phases could differ strongly in context and for soccer games were divided again into subphases. A phasing such as this is preferable to fixed divisions in a planning, mobilization and aggressive phase (Dijkhuis 1981; Van de Sande & Wortel, 1982) where the phases are based on a number of dubious presumptions, are difficult to distinguish from one another, and can only be distinguished in hindsight.

Research programme Managing Dangerous Situations
Research programme Managing Dangerous Situations