Riots are coming to America. Are our police departments ready?


A rise in worldwide public unrest, protests and peaceful protest… the growing gap between government, police and the public… What to do?

In recent years the number of incidents and escalations to violence at protests and rallies has been on the rise. Police forces around the world continue working to develop tactics to more effectively counter this growing threat.

Many agencies are opting to stand up specialist units that employ new tactics based on intelligence and work to pre-empt issues by building dialogue and rapport with groups.

Others have relied solely on more “old school” confrontational tactics, which can often result in negative reaction and consequence that ends up having world-wide coverage.

Both sets of tactics have their place in the tool box of crowd management, but both options will always work better as part of a holistic approach. That more rounded approach is known as Public Order Management (POM).

A definition of Public Order Management:

“The systematic planning and steering of events in the public domain, or with a direct effect on this, where there is risk of public order disturbances, regardless of the number of people that are present at or involved with the disturbance”.

In literature they speak of maintaining order in public spaces and use the term “public order management”. This term is being used to describe organisations with the task of public order, their policies and programs, their individual and collective policing operations and the technology they use (McPhail, Schwingruber & McCarth, 1998).

POM was developed using the most current practices in Crowd Behaviors and Personal Identity; using TTP’s coming from the highest levels of experience of internationally recognized police practitioners, academics and scientific research in the field.

The focus and emphasis should therefore be on managing and maintaining the order and not get persuaded to focus on managing a disturbance; the preferred option should always be to allow peaceful protest.

Riots are coming to America.  Are our police departments ready?
Protesters start fires in Portland, Oregon. (Screenshot – YouTube Daniel V. Media)


The bedrock of this system is the gathering of information and intelligence to allow all parties involved to work to keep the peace. This affords agencies a way to plan, steer and act on what information is available to them ahead of the event.

Much of the information that is available is easily obtained and can make a significant difference not only when, but preferably before, it matters.

By properly setting up the POM, the organizations can start to structure their information gathering, registration and communication internally as well as between the parties involved and the public.

By utilizing these internationally recognized models, agencies can work to build the public’s confidence through relationship, thus providing a more positive image to both national and international media. 

Over the past years the growing gap between local government, police and the public has been a direct result of insufficient knowledge on how to deal with growing public unrest; which in turn has contributed to an acceleration of this disconnect and has led to some growing animosity between law enforcement and the public. This is why developing an effective Public Order Management Program is a must for agencies at all levels.

While there are multiple effective variations to setting up a Public Order Management Program, there are 3 primary sub categories that really encompass all the components of POM.  These three components are designed to; prevent, stabilize and de-escalate these potentially volatile situations.

Social Conditioned Hesitative Behavior
Baltimore riots 2015. (Photo courtesy Baltimore Police Department)


Public Order Management (POM) consists of:

  1. Crowd Management
  2. Crowd Control
  3. Riot Control


  1. Crowd Management focuses on all measures that are taken to maintain order and safety during an event by all participants to include the event organizer, local or national government and law enforcement.
  2. Crowd Control, is where the emphasis lies on control and restraint of crowds. Tools for this include; fencing, gates and checkpoints. In cases where Crowd Control is insufficient to maintain Public Order, the option is only then escalated to Riot Control.
  3. Riot Control, is where the objective is to regain control of any disturbance by means of counter measure tactics and force in order to de-escalate the situation. This can require the police to wear protective clothing and carry shields which can be seen as more confrontational. Therefore Riot Control is the last resort of POM.
Riots are coming to America.  Are our police departments ready?
(Government Training Institute –

The first 5 Steps to take in developing a Public Order Management Program:

  1. The core principle of Public Order Management is that the vast majority ofcrowds that gather are law abiding citizens who are legally exercising their rights to protest and voice their concerns and beliefs. This understanding should be the basis of any lawful protest and we must remember that we all took an oath to “Serve and Protect” and that oath includes protecting protestors and their right to lawfully protest.
  2. Understanding that a group has a certain behaviour is one thing, but knowing “Why” it behaves the way it does is the key to understanding “how” to deal with these people not only as a group but as individuals. A group of any sort is made up of individuals; individuals with certain behaviours and characteristics. Understanding this allows us to use a variety of proven procedures and academic models such as the Elaborated Social Identity Model so we can begin to understand groups and start to predict how they may behave.
  3. Communication and information is and will always be the key to prevention; de-escalation or if needed; confrontation and containment. It is therefore imperative that we understand the best way to effectively communicate. We must ensure that we are using the right type of communication to successfully reach our goal of preventing the situation from escalating into violence. Far too often our Crowd Control Units are taught an ineffective way of communicating that ultimately has the opposite effect of what they are trying to accomplish. How we communicate is paramount and because of that we must “Change the Tune!”
  4. Appearance through a show of force vs less-visible response and actions should all be reviewed, altered and in many cases, redefined. Studies over the last few decades show that facing all these instances as threats and appearing as a hostile counter force often causes an escalation to violence and that ultimately is a failure. We however must protect our officers with every available option that we can but how do we do that without showing up as an adversarial force, no matter what the instance is? We have to consider the best practices of Public Order Management and the findings of the research and change our mind-sets; our overall approach and ultimately how we appear to the populous.
  5. Last but not least…why?! Well, we are living in an age where Law Enforcement is under constant observation and scrutiny from the public and the media.We are fighting to do our job, all the while everyone is ready to judge our every move; and whether we are right or wrong, we end up defending our actions against the internet and social media. Because of this, we have to change our approach but we cannot forget what we are there to do and still maintain the safety of our officers and the public we are there to protect. To make these changes we have to train our people from the top to the bottom and give them the tools they need to be successful in TODAY’s environment; not using antiquated techniques, equipment and procedures.  Let’s make sure we train to a standard that keeps everyone on the same level operationally and gives no one the ammunition to scrutinize our actions or our people who are just trying to do their job and return home safely to their families.
Riots are coming to America.  Are our police departments ready?
Masked protesters using pepper spray. (Screenshot – Andy Ngo Twitter)


Government Training Institute (GTI) is internationally known as a leader in SWAT and tactical training with training centers in South Carolina; it has created an alliance with a team of subject matter experts in the field of Public Order Management.  Dr. Tamara D. Herold of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Rene Gaemers of Batavae Training & Consultancy out of the Netherlands and Neil Pollock, retired Public Order Management Trainer and Tactical Advisor from The Metropolitan Police in London, UK. The team is working with colleagues from around the US and abroad to set up a Public Order Management Academy at GTI’s South Carolina facilities.  The facility is expansive and allows for all levels of Public Order training: from the basic Field Force style training through specialist training such as role specific evidence capture and liaison officers to work with protest organizers before during and after an event; to classroom-based training for those who will command the POM events and the team who will assist and support them. The facility also allows for the option to recreate events to assist in debriefs or to develop new tactics.

GTI will be holding Public Order Management Commanders courses starting on August 12 -16th.

For more information on the Public Order Management courses, please contact GTI directly. 

Phone: 803-259-1935

Email: [email protected]

Visit our website for additional information on this and many other courses.


Riots are coming to America.  Are our police departments ready?

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