Megan O’Neill: “An increase in the role of private security is extremely problematic”

Dr Megan O’Neill is a Reader in Human Geography at the University of Dundee, Scotland and an Associate Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR). Her work focuses on aspects of police culture, community policing, public sector pluralisation in policing, private policing and surveillance practices of the state. She has published two books, Policing Football (2005, Palgrave) and Police Community Support Officers (2019, Oxford University Press). She has published numerous research articles in journals such as Policing and Society, The European Journal of Criminology, Theoretical Criminology, Criminology and Criminal Justice, and The British Journal of Criminology.

1.- There are those who propose the dissolution of the police. Do you think this is a reasonable and possible proposal?

While I can understand the logic behind this argument to dissolve the police, I do not agree that this is the best way forward. I would argue instead for a more integrated approach to solving social problems among the public sector services (and also including some relevant private sector and third sector organisations). Reducing the way in which the various services operate as silos from each other and moving towards a system instead of integrated practice and budgeting, would, I feel, make for a better response to crime and disorder. Many of the biggest challenges seen in policing are not within the gift of the police to solve on their own, but they are an important partner in this process. This would therefore require additional funding for the police (and the other agencies), not less, to set up these systems and methods of integration and communication. It would also require significant organisational change for all the agencies involved. For example, it could no longer be the case that the police are the only 24-hour response organisation.

2.- In case of dissolution of police organisations, could other actors or bodies take over the functions of the police?

I do not agree that other agencies could take over the work of the police. Theirs is a particular skill set that for certain events or incidents is absolutely necessary. They also have the extensive experience and the cultural standing to play very important roles in more integrated work with other services. For me it is a case of finding a better way to integrate the various services to prevent crime, disorder and social problems. This would of course require significant organisational change for all those involved, the police included. This will take a long time to achieve and need to be communicated carefully and effectively to all staff. There would be concerns about change, but if officers feel they have a voice in this process and can be listened to change is indeed possible. Integration on this scale would require the firm commitment of all the agencies involved or else it would not be successful.

3.- In the event of a decrease in the role of the police, there could be an increase in private security. Would it not be problematic for many citizens who would not be able to afford it?

An increase in the role of private security is extremely problematic. Private organisations have as their core focus the achievement of profit. All other concerns are secondary to this. There are many researchers who have studied the work of the private sector in various aspects of criminal justice services (such as policing, prisons and probation) and have found multiple failures and problematic behaviour. This is not to say that public sector policing is always perfect, far from it. But as a body that is accountable to the state or to the people it serves, public policing has an inherent duty of care that the private sector will never be able to match. And all this is an issue even before we consider the question of who would pay for the private sector services and if this would result in a stratification of the security that the public can expect. It is, in my view, morally corrupt to rely on the private sector to provide security for the public at large. However, as mentioned above the private sector can be an important partner in the wider integrated service provision I suggest. But they would be a minor partner, compared to those of the public sector.

4.- What should be the role of citizens in an alternative security management model? What should your role be and what should be the limits of your intervention?

The general public would of course have a role to play in the integrated model I propose. Members of the public are at the centre of this in that all services should be working together to establish what are the root causes of crime, disorder or social problems in a community and work to address those causes. Ultimately, this will only be fully successful with the cooperation of the pubic. However, we should not put the public in a position where they must take an active role in their own security provision, beyond the basics of locking doors, keeping passwords secure, etc. Many people do not have the resources or the capacity to be active players in this work and should not be expected to do so. In terms of academic researchers, we will have an important role in this system in terms of bringing to the fore the best evidence available on what works in which situations and to assess and evaluate new initiatives as they are enacted.


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Alex S. Vitale: “The modern state has worked hard to monopolize the provision of security. We need to better democratize this process”

Alex S. Vitale  is Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, and a Visiting Professor at London Southbank University. He has spent the last 30 years writing about policing and consults both police departments and human rights organizations internationally. Prof. Vitale is the author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics and The End of Policing. His academic writings on policing have appeared in Policing and Society, Police Practice and Research, Mobilization, and Contemporary Sociology. He is also a frequent essayist, whose writings have been published in The NY Times, Washington PostThe Guardian, The NationVice NewsFortune, and USA Today. He has also appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, PBS, Democracy Now, and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

1.- You propose that the police force, as it is currently structured, should be dissolved. Do you think there are any areas of the police structure that should be maintained?

Transforming the way we think about public safety doesn’t imagine that we eliminate police departments overnight. For one thing, this is not politically possible, so it is not reasonable to even consider it as an option. Second, what is needed is to begin a process of developing new infrastructures of public safety that will allow us to address public safety concerns more effectively and without the negative social costs of relying on police. As we develop these new infrastructures we can reduce and eliminate the corresponding police functions. For example, Portugal has decriminalized drugs and this means they can reduce police time that was previously spent on narcotics enforcement. Another example is the creation of non-police crisis intervention teams to respond to mental health crisis calls, thus allowing for the downsizing of police patrol capacity. 

2.- In case of dissolution of police organizations, could other actors or bodies take over the functions of the police?

Yes, that is the goal, though the “functions” may look very different from what police do. Rather than trying to control and interrupt drug distribution and usage, we could invest in public health services and legalized distribution of drugs. 

3.- In the event of a decrease in the role of the police, there could be an increase in private security. Would it not be problematic for many citizens who would not be able to afford it?

The goal of this new approach is to reduce vulnerability, so that less of a “security” infrastructure is needed. If we have fewer people who are poor, unhoused, lack access to basic health services, etc, there will be less need for punitive systems of crime control, whether public or private.

4.- What should be the role of citizens in an alternative security management model? What should your role be and what should be the limits of your intervention?

The modern state has worked hard to monopolize the provision of security. We need to better democratize this process. We should equip communities with resources that allow them to more effectively respond to a variety of public safety challenges on their own. This can involve both increasing the capacity of community based organizations to address issues like domestic violence, mental health needs, substance abuse, youth services, etc and enhance the capacity of individuals to work together to solve problems cooperatively such as resolving nuisance complaints between neighbors, family members, friends, etc. Involving the police in every conceivable dispute comes with huge financial and social costs and we should work to reduce their role in as many ways as we can. 


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Juan José Medina Ariza: “We also need a more plural police, with more civilian personnel, and greater diversity among its ranks”

Juanjo Medina is a Talentia Senior Distinguished Researcher affiliated to the Deparment of Criminal Law and Crime Sciences at the University of Seville. Previously he worked as Full Professor of Quantitative Criminology and the Head of the Department of Criminology at the University of Manchester until August 2020. He was the President of the Spanish Society of Criminology from 2016 to 2020.

1.- What are the defining elements of a police model?

I think this is a terribly important question and one that, despite the frequent use of the term “police models”, we still haven´t fully agreed upon. Kelling and Moore (1988) possibly still represents the best known effort at doing this in a systematic way. They talked about 7 dimensions: legitimacy source, definition of the  police role, organizational design of departments, relationships with the community, nature of police efforts to market or manage the demand for their services, tactics, and agreed-upon measures of success. And focusing on the American historical experience, they distinguish between the political, the reform/professional, and the community/problem solving models. Guillen (2016), following Bertaccini, discusses how the term police model is often used as a “point of reference” to improve past ways of thinking about and organising the police, what Wood and Shearing (2007) discuss as “waves of policing reform”. So in many ways the whole discussion about models, to date, has had a clear political and aspirational dimension. It seems to be more about what we would want the police to look like, than a concept that has been used to measure the diversity of models: how police organisations vary across national or regional jurisdictions. Without dismissing the relevance of such use of the term “police model”, as an empiricist I think it would be helpful to start thinking about relevant dimensions that could be used to characterise existing models and their differences, in a more rigorous and grounded way.

2.- Which of the existing police models do you think is the best for maintaining peaceful coexistence and a safe society?

I guess my previous answer places me in an awkward position to answer this one! I am not quite sure we can really answer in a rigorous way what are the models of police that can be found across the globe, never mind which one is best. Those of us that have worked in various countries and know different police institutions cross-nationally are aware of some of their more visible differences, as well as some of their similarities. But we need to follow the steps of David Bayley in trying to engage in more systematic cross-national empirical comparison if we really want to clearly identify these models. A good deal of the discussions about reform has been driven by American policing scholarship key confronting interests of maximising crime reduction effectiveness (through hot spots, problem solving, etc.) whilst minimising the social, and unevenly distributed, costs of the proposed tactics. In order to achieve the latter, we need a better understanding of the full extent of these costs. But we need to go beyond this kind of discussions in any case. Policing is more complex than just a crime fighting agency. For me a good model is one that is democratically debated and supported by the citizenship. As noted earlier, we need to consider different elements to it (nature of police role, tactics, accountability mechanisms, nature and content of training, degree of diversity, and a very long etcetera). In Spain, we are very far behind in having this debate. Initiatives like those taken in the Catalan Parliament, but also the positioning of different NGOs and more critical Spanish scholars about policing, are good first step towards having this debate, which I hope could take center stage. The problem we have here is whether the political class will be mature and responsible enough to follow this path.

3. Beyond judicial control, what external supervision should police organisations have? What are the consequences of these controls?

My view is that in terms of accountability and democratic input, we need to think beyond formal mechanisms of discipline (whether internal, judicial, or external). We also need a more plural police, with more civilian personnel, and greater diversity among its ranks. We need police-academic partnerships. We need journalist that take seriously the role of reporting about policing, rather than just reporting about serious or emotional crimes. We need to significantly rethink what we want police training to look like and who should do it, I think it is important there is more community involvement at this stage. Much better internal protocols for critical incidents and much more rigorous and open data about these incidents. I would love something like the British Inspectorates in Spain, so that there was a proper auditing of the police performance and quality of service across the country. We need parliamentary committees capable of working together to find some form of agreement about steps that need to be taken. And ministers that are not afraid of criticising their own force when they engage in non-acceptable practice. If all we have in Spain besides the judiciary, is the Human Rights Ombdusman we need to provide this institution with more teeth than it currently has.

4.- Under what circumstances should the police change its model if it is not considered valid, and who should be in charge of the change: professionals, government or citizens?

We should be doing what the citizenship demands, the government should be facilitating that, and professionals, together with academics, should inform all about the nuances, difficulties, and challenges of proposed reforms. Ultimately professionals need to understand that in a democracy they serve the public, not the other way around, and they can´t be a barrier for change. Given a significant amount of adult Spaniards were not even born when the current model was framed into the Organic Law 2/1986 and how the world has changed since,  as well as the many problems with the so-called Ley Mordaza, one could say that the circumstances for establishing a new social contract about the police model are already present in Spanish society.


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Rossella Selmini: “Repressive and zero-tolerance policing models create conflict and undermine trust”

Rossella Selmini is Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Bologna, Department of Legal Sciences. She was previously a professor at the University of Minnesota (USA) and director of the Department of Urban Security and Local Police within the Regional Government of Emilia-Romagna. She was president of the European Society of Criminology from 2015 to 2018.

1. What are the defining elements of a police model?

The literature on policing identifies several elements that define a policing model. Among them, I consider it particularly important to identify three elements: the general principles that should guide the model, the organisation of the forces and the functions attributed to them.

2. Which of the existing police models do you think is the best for maintaining peaceful coexistence and a safe society?

In contemporary western societies, although with striking differences linked to national and local peculiarities, two models in particular have been consolidated: the so-called “zero tolerance” and that of community policing. They have some overlapping aspects but are different in terms of the fundamental principles guiding police actions. In the community policing model, the principles of service to the community, the relationship with the community, with all its components, including minorities and the younger generation, the creation of a relationship of trust, the prevalent use of conflict negotiation and the use of repression as an ultima ratio all prevail. These principles should govern the various units of police organisations, from administrative policing to judicial policing, public order control and crime prevention. Moreover, in view of the results of the research, I believe that this model is the best and this is reinforced by the fact that it has been shown to be the one that most adequately guarantees peaceful coexistence, offering security to citizens and increasing the trust in and legitimacy of the police.

Repressive and zero-tolerance models, on the other hand, create conflicts and undermine trust, particularly among the most vulnerable groups in society, reinforcing the culture of intolerance and fear, without, for their part, making a significant contribution to crime control. In light of the most recent debate on police downsizing, a community policing model can even be envisaged, in which some particularly sensitive functions that are still carried out by the police today ─mental illness, general social imbalances─ are referred to other agencies of a non-police nature. On the other hand, within the framework of a community policing model, public order functions must also be resized and kept within the limits strictly compatible with the exercising of civil and political rights.

3. Beyond judicial control, what external supervision should police organisations have? What are the consequences of these controls?

The issue of police accountability is particularly important in Southern European countries, which generally focus the control of police operators on internal disciplinary control and that of the judicial authority. I am convinced that a third body, intermediate between internal and judicial control, would be useful to ensure an independent evaluation. A body of this type should include experts and members of the local community and civil society. This form of control – endowed with the necessary power of intervention – should ensure the reduction of impunity, which is the most common consequence of police abuse and violence.

4. Under what circumstances should the police change its model if it is not considered valid, and who should be in charge of the change: professionals, government or citizens?

I do not believe that particular circumstances need to be present to modify a police model: practically all police models, particularly in some European countries, including France, Italy and Spain, need radical reforms, whether in the control of ordinary crime or especially in the control of public order and relations with ethnic minorities. Discriminatory behaviour, abuse and excessive use of force are frequent phenomena in the three countries mentioned above and are phenomena that require a more radical change in the organisation of the forces, their culture and accountability, not limited to cosmetic reforms (for example: greater attention to the selection methods or professional training are important but not sufficient).

I believe that a reform of a policing model cannot be effective if it does not start from an extensive consultation with citizens, including ethnic minorities and the most vulnerable people, on the reform model as is being attempted –with many difficulties– in some American cities following the murder of George Floyd. It should be up to the local community, with the possible assistance of experts, to determine the policing model it wants, and this model should then be discussed with the legislative bodies.


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Nora Miralles Crespo: “The introduction and standardisation of mass surveillance and biometric technologies permanently control our lives and reduce our privacy”

Nora Miralles Crespo: Journalist. Master of Gender, Conflict and Human Rights from Ulster University (Belfast) and Master of International Relations, Security and Development from UAB. Researcher on gender, security, militarism and human rights at the Observatory for Human Rights and Business in the Mediterranean (ODHE) and Shock Monitor, as well as at the Delàs Centre for Peace Studies. Advisor and researcher in the Alternatives of Security area of the Institut Català Internacional per la Pau (ICIP). Grassroots activist in different social movements.

1. What strategies are being used by the police in the field of public order?

In general, I believe that there are two strategic trends that are in opposition or diverging at the same time in the field of public order. One of them is the openness to other visions of security, which gains shape and momentum with the introduction of tools such as mediation, community or neighbourhood policing or youth mentoring programmes. These activities have an impact on order but are based on a preventive approach and a deeper understanding of the causes of social conflicts. The other, on the contrary, would be aligned with the process of uncritical expansion of police functions and the securitarian approach to phenomena that were not previously considered problems or challenges to public order. The latter trend has resulted, among other things, in an evident impairment of citizens’ rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of protest and demonstration. A trend that is also taking shape is the introduction and standardisation of mass surveillance and biometric technologies that permanently control our lives and reduce our privacy, without their use being justified, nor properly regulated, and in the expansion of the use of (supposedly) non-lethal weaponry in more and more contexts.

2. Is it possible to adopt a predefined approach, taking into account the different types of protests and the different ways in which they may develop?

Undoubtedly, if the objective is to respect citizens’ human and fundamental rights online, it does not seem advisable to establish an invariable approach that does not arise from a prior analysis and reflection on how to address the conflict in the most proportionate and least harmful way possible, in each specific scenario. Social protests are natural reactions to the decisions of those who make public policies; they are a normal and democratic way of expressing discontent or divergence. The first problem, in my view, is demonising social protest in such a way that it becomes logical and commonplace for any demonstration or political event in public spaces to have a large presence, not of citizen security patrols, but of public order maintenance units, as if demonstrating were in itself a disturbance of public order. Secondly, violent actions at protests are in the minority and almost never directed against other persons, and yet it does not often appear that the response is commensurate with the number and severity of the incidents.

3. What are the conditions that must be fulfilled for the right to demonstrate that is being exercised to be taken away or restricted in the course of a rally or demonstration?

For me, the difference is undoubtedly putting others’ lives or integrity in danger. I am talking about real danger, not an arbitrary scale by which to interrupt all those demonstrations that criticise the established order or that emit messages that are of no interest, in a broad range of senses.

4. Should the organisers of a protest be held responsible for control during the demonstration, and for the consequences they themselves did not want?

I believe that it is dangerous and even hypocritical to hold citizens who organise protests responsible for everything that happens, while on the other hand, in the last few decades, their responsibility for practically everything related to social and community intervention has been taken away, because it was already in their interest that everything collective be guided and controlled by the Administration. Either you give responsibility to the citizens, or you totally take it away, but doing so only when it is in the interest of charging someone with a riot is clearly a way of limiting civil liberties. This will lead to the ounce of collectivity left disappearing for fear of criminal and administrative repression.

5. What instruments do you think are acceptable to use with a certain degree of violence in demonstrations to restore social peace with the least possible damage? For example, what about water cannons?

Obviously, a water cannon will be less damaging – in principle, of course – than blast balls, but well-managed mediation will always be less incendiary than any repressive mechanism. Social conflict, including violent expressions in demonstrations, must be addressed as a matter of priority on a prior and structural basis, since they arise as a reaction to the discrimination and violence generated by an increasingly unequal socioeconomic system. Therefore, repressive responses in the specific context of a demonstration are an impotent reaction to a much deeper problem; they build a false social peace, considering this as the lack of conflict in the public space, only. But social violence does not disappear, it simply becomes entrenched, is channelled into other spheres such as the private sphere or crystallises in an increase of violence in the community and the family. Regarding the misnamed “non-lethal weapons”, I really like the reflection made by Paul Rocher in his book Gazer, mutiler, soumettre. The politics of non-lethal weapons, recently published by Katakrak, on how these types of mechanisms considered less harmful, besides being questionable in terms of the damage they can cause (mutilations and, yes, even death), end up being used not to manage conflicts in which more dangerous weaponry was previously used, but to manage those in which no weapons were used at all.


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Ralph Roche: “Any restriction or limitation on the right to protest is a serious interference with a range of human rights”

Ralph Roche is a lawyer, specialised in human rights, judicial administration and policing. He has a wide range of experience in Northern Ireland and the Western Balkans region, working for police services and as a consultant for the Council of Europe. From 1998 to 2005, he lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina, working for a human rights court, the Office of the High Representative and the European Commission. SInce then, he has worked for the Police Service of Northern Ireland as Human Rights Legal Adviser, and for the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in the Hague as Head of Judicial Services Division.

He is a co-author of the Council of Europe handbook “The European Convention on Human Rights and Policing.”

1.- What strategies are police using in the area of public order?

Police services should adopt a flexible approach when dealing with public order events. The protection of the human rights of all persons affected by demonstrations and other public order events should be at the heart of any strategy. Compliance with human rights principles allows police services to apply a range of clear approaches, informed by the extensive case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, An overarching strategic analysis should be in place, informed by relevant and up to date information covering issues such as the threats and risks, and the likely causes and themes of any public order issues. Once this is in place, it allows for the deployment of adequate resources (both human and technical) and implementing planned operational responses to potential scenarios. 

It is critically important that police adopt a neutral approach, which does not effectively prohibit the expression of views by demonstrators that they or the public might find offensive. This is a key requirement of a democratic society, as confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights in many cases. For example, outright bans or imposing bureaucratic obstacles on protests have been found to be violations of the rights to freedom of association and expression. While police are not always responsible for making such decisions, in cases where they are, they should seek to ensure that decisions are taken on a defensible basis, in accordance with local law and overarching human rights principles. Police in the United Kingdom have adopted the National Decision-Making Model (available at the following link:, which provides a framework for making decisions in all areas of police activity. It is a simple and effective model, and when adopted by all elements of the police involved in an operation it provides a common understanding of how decisions should be made and implemented. It places ethics and professional standards at its heart, incorporating a range of key principles, including accountability, fairness and respect. I have been personally involved in a range of dynamic and complicated policing operations where it was used by a wide range of policing units to make fast-time and effective decisions that ensured the rights of all persons affected by the operation were protected.

Another key requirement is that police see their role as protecting the rights of members of the public. Police in a democratic society should not see themselves as an instrument of State power, but as defenders of the rights of participants in public events. Policing is not about control, but rather about facilitating the exercise of democratic freedoms. This will also assist in improving the relationship between the police and the public. 

2.- Is it possible to adopt a pre-established method of action, taking into account the different types of protests and the different evolutions they may have?

In my opinion, it is not possible for the police to adopt a pre-determined approach to demonstrations and other public events. Each demonstration or public order event is different and should be considered on its own merits. While police can, and should, rely on information gained from previous similar events, they should examine the information available re each individual event and tailor their response accordingly. The fact that a previous event may have led to disorder (e.g. between rival groups) is not of itself a ground for restricting or prohibiting future events. The dynamic nature of society means that events and participants change over time. 

Police should obviously plan for possible scenarios during demonstrations, and previous examples of demonstrations are a very good starting point for this. As police officers often say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. However, planning is an aid to decision-making, not an end in itself. As referred to above, an overarching strategic analysis assists in allowing police to prepare for potential scenarios. It also allows police to train officers in the required tactics, as well as in negotiation, engagement and information-gathering.

Another practical reason why police should not adopt a pre-determined approach is that people who wish to cause disorder may soon learn what these approaches are and learn how to undermine them. If police use the same tactics repeatedly, those who may wish to attack the police can learn from them and develop ways to harm or injure police. 

3.- What are the conditions that should be met for the right to protest to be interrupted or limited during the course of a rally or demonstration?

Any restriction or limitation on the right to protest is a serious interference with a range of human rights. It concerns the rights to freedom of expression and association, as well as the right to manifest one’s beliefs. Police action can also engage the right to freedom from inhuman treatment and, in extreme cases, even the right to life. However, there are circumstances where police action is required, for example to ensure the right to protest is upheld or to protect the rights and freedoms of others. Interventions during an event are more difficult and pose additional threats to the safety of participants, as well as to the lives and safety of police officers. 

Restrictions must  have a legal basis – there must be a provision in national law allowing for their imposition. Any restrictions must be for a legitimate aim. In practice, restrictions are most often imposed in order to prevent crime or disorder, or to protect the rights of others. Another key issue is that restrictions must be proportionate. For example, stopping a demonstration because of a minor or technical infringement may not be necessary in a democratic society. There are very many judgments of the European Court of Human Rights where restrictions were imposed on the basis of very minor issues, and it is clear that this is often done as a means of suppressing the expression of ideas that the authorities do not wish to be heard.

In order to justify an intervention during an event, there must be a clear reason to do so. An obvious one is that there is a threat to the safety of persons (whether police officers, participants, or members of the public). The conduct of participants could also justify an intervention, for example if any lawful conditions on the event are not being complied with. For example, if the competent authority has imposed limitations on an event, these should in principle be complied with. However, a failure to comply with any limitations does not, by itself, justify an intervention. An assessment of the need for immediate action must be undertaken. In many cases, subsequent action will be sufficient to ensure compliance with the law.

Different countries have different approaches to the regulation of public assemblies. For example, in some countries, a Mayor or other elected official determines the conditions under which public events can proceed. In Northern Ireland, anyone wishing to organise a public procession must inform the Parades Commission, a public body established by law. In cases where the primary responsibility rests with police, they must ensure that all of their decisions are lawful and not motivated by any improper motivation, such as discrimination.

Decisions to intervene may also require the decision of a body other than the police. This can be problematic, as elected officials may not be best placed to understand the practical consequences of decisions to intervene. In my view, police, acting within a clear legal framework, and having consulted as widely as possible in the circumstances, are best placed to make decisions regarding the need for interventions in relation to public events. While this imposes significant burdens on police, it also provides them with an opportunity to apply their professionalism and expertise in a practical scenario.

It is also important to recall that a failure to comply with conditions imposed on a demonstration is not, of itself, a reason to intervene. If the deviation is unlikely to result in injury or undue disruption, it may be appropriate to allow the event to proceed. Investigations or other action can be taken after the event as necessary. Intervention against demonstrations that are in progress is a very difficult endeavour, and can lead to significant use of force and injury, both to participants and police officers.

4.- What responsibility should the organisers of a demonstration have with respect to its control and unforeseen consequences?

Organising or participating in a demonstration involves responsibilities. Organisers should ensure that the demonstration stays within the law, and also complies with any requirements or limitations imposed by the competent authorities. If the organiser considers that any such requirements are excessive or otherwise unlawful, they should seek to use any legal remedies available to them under local law. Failure to comply with requirements during a demonstration should be avoided as it may lead to criminal or other consequences. In respect of the liability of organisers for the actions of participants in demonstrations, it is important that they are only held responsible for actions that they are responsible for. If persons join a demonstration with the intent of causing disorder or other criminal offences, organisers may have very little power to prevent this. While marshals and other safety mechanisms should be in place as part of a well-organised demonstration, principles of strict liability or other legal means of holding organisers responsible for the actions of others should be avoided as they can be an undue restriction on the effective enjoyment of freedom of association.

Organisers should also engage with the police, in order to discuss issues of common concern. In Northern Ireland, police will often contact organisers of demonstrations to discuss relevant issues and to better understand the needs and expectations of demonstrators. This can help avoid misunderstandings and create a channel of communication for engagement during  the demonstration. In addition, the European Court of Human Rights has recognised that a refusal by an organiser to engage with police can be a justification for restrictions or other measures, where necessary. 

5.- What instruments do you think are acceptable to use in demonstrations with a certain degree of violence to restore social peace with the least possible damage? For example, water canons.

In the event that disorder arises, police need to have a range of tactical options available to them to deal with it. The first tactic should always be engagement – building on previous discussions with the organisers and participants and seeking to identify and address the issue. In situations where this is not possible, tactical options for the use of force are required. These are many and varied, and include personal protective equipment for officers, protected vehicles, barriers and communications devices. In cases of more serious disorder, other options such as water cannons or less lethal projectiles should be available. It is critically important, however, that the legal and human rights rules regarding the use of such tactics are respected. This requires them to be integrated into the police operating procedures and training. Clear chains of command and responsibility for the deployment and use of such tactics are necessary. A central command room, with live information being provided, should be established for large events where violence or disorder is a possibility.

Various international standards regulate the use of force by State authorities. Most importantly in this context, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires that lethal force only be used where it is absolutely necessary to protect life. This means that such force should only be used as a last resort, where no other option is available. The case-law makes it clear that police tactics must not be such as to make the use of lethal force inevitable or highly likely. Less lethal alternatives (for example, e.g. bean bags or pepper projectiles) are frequently available to police, but there must be strict rules regarding their use. These tactics should only be used against individual aggressors, rather than against a crowd in general. Options such as water cannon can be useful in situations where it is necessary to maintain distance between opposing groups or to prevent a crowd from proceeding past a certain point.

The overarching requirement is that a “systems” approach is in place. This requires that only properly trained officers are authorised to carry and use methods of applying force, and that there are strict rules governing their use. The police operation must be commanded and controlled by experienced officers, working together with colleagues to ensure that the level of force used is the minimum necessary to achieve the awful objective. Force should never be used to punish, it should only be used to prevent disorder and return the situation to normality as soon as possible.

The most effective policing operations I have been part of, often providing real-time advice to commanders as the situation developed, involved properly trained commander and officers, working within a clear legal and practical framework, with clear strategic goals as to what the desired outcome was. Some of these involved the use of significant amounts of force against violent individuals in very dangerous circumstances. 


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Seventh anniversary of the blog ‘Notes de Seguretat’

Soon the blog Notes de Seguretat will be seven years old. It has been a long and intense but very exciting stage, focused on the search for novelties, lines of action, news, trends and policies in the field of security. The aim was to open up reflections on this world, as well as to gather its contributions.

With the road we have all travelled together, delivering two weekly articles, the data encourage us to continue working hard and with even more enthusiasm. After almost seven years of work, our subscribers and readers can make their assessments, but the figures are significant: 210,000 views on the blog have been surpassed, with some 112,000 visitors coming from more than 150 different countries. With more than 2,300 articles published in the four languages in which we broadcast the blog, we now have almost 700 subscribers. And in all this time we have always closed the current year with better audience results than in previous years.

Very good results have also been obtained in the dissemination of the articles via Twitter in the four languages: 520 profiles are followed and there are nearly 400 followers.

As has already been done on some of the blog’s anniversaries, we will celebrate the seventh anniversary with the publication of six short interviews with prominent people in the field of security. These are cross-interviews on three specific areas of security: public order, police models and new security proposals. In this way, it is possible to offer different visions or points of view of scholars in the same field of security.

On Monday, 24 October, we will interview the head of Legal Affairs in Public Order in Northern Ireland, Ralph Roche, on public order. And on the same field on Wednesday, 26 October, we will interview Nora Miralles Crespo, journalist and researcher.

On Monday, 31 October, we will interview the former president of the European Society of Criminology, Rossella Selmini, on police models. On Wednesday, 2 November, we will interview, from the same field, Juanjo Medina Ariza, researcher for the Department of Criminal Law and Crime Sciences at the University of Seville.

And, to conclude, on Monday, 7 November, we will interview Professor Alex S. Vitale, on new proposals in the field of security, and on Wednesday, 9 November, also in reference to new proposals in security, Megan O’Neill, associate director of the Scottish Policing Research Institute.

It should be emphasised that the Editorial Board of Notes de Seguretat will not necessarily share the content of the articles it publishes, and the opinions of the persons interviewed represent only their point of view and not that of the Editorial Board or the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Editorial Board is responsible for the selection of the interviewees and the content of the questions, but not for the opinions expressed.

We hope you enjoy these interviews and that we can continue to enjoy your presence on the blog for a long time to come.

Editorial Board of ‘Notes de Seguretat’


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Urbanism at the service of citizens. Interview with Marik Fetouh, Deputy Mayor of Bordeaux

Marik Fetouh

  1. What does the urban regeneration of Bordeaux consist of? What are the objectives and priorities of this transformation?

When Alain Juppé, then Prime Minister, arrived in Bordeaux in 1995, he stated his intention to awaken “the sleeping beauty”, as Bordeaux was popularly referred to at that time. To make it more attractive, he reconfigured the city, focusing above all on restoring the historic centre, which led to it becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Today, with one million visitors, 10,000 new inhabitants, and 11,000 new jobs created in the city each year, Bordeaux has become one of the most appealing cities in France.

Reuniting Bordeaux’s residents with their river

For many years the docks were non-operational, business in the port was scarce, and it moved further down-river to Verdon. The warehouses were abandoned. Some have been demolished and replaced by gardens, others have been converted into exhibition venues or establishments, making the docks a pleasant and relaxing place for a stroll today. Both the river and cruise tourism industries have been intensively developed.

Regenerating the poorest neighbourhoods

In addition to developing the Right Bank, the arrival of the Bordeaux tramway meant that some of the most challenging districts in the city also benefited from the urban development schemes. The flagship project is the Euroatlantique development in the area around the main train station, which has garnered international interest.

Fighting urban congestion and solving the housing problem

During the last 20 years, the city’s planning policies have tried to address these two problems by increasing and concentrating available housing. Each year, a total of 9,000 homes are made available in the Bordeaux metropolis. In the coming months, Bordeaux’s ambitious housing programme will provide 14,000 more homes, 30% of which are earmarked for social housing.

A green city

To create a more pedestrian-friendly city Bordeaux’s open spaces were largely left in their natural state during the regeneration. But, for example, the urbanised landscape and lack of vegetation in some of those areas does nothing but quell the oppressive heat on the hottest days. To solve this problem, the new Mayor of Bordeaux, Nicolas Florianhas decided to plant 3,000 trees in the city every year.

  1. What role have Bordeaux’s citizens played in the project to transform the city?

The people’s voice has, for some time, influenced the development of public spaces. It makes itself heard through advisory bodies like neighbourhood associations, as well as through the obligatory public consultations. In Bordeaux today, it is the inhabitants that inspire the development of the public spaces. Their needs play an integral role in the planning of the different projects for those areas.

This year, the Bordeaux city council has launched its first participatory budget. More than 13.000 of Bordeaux’s citizens voted in favour of the sustainable development projects they hope to see implemented in their neighbourhood. Of the 407 projects submitted, 41 were selected. An anticipated 2.5 million Euro will be invested into those 41 projects. They will be carried out over the next two years.

  1. Do you think that the regeneration of the city has improved the security and the perception of security for its citizens?

 Bordeaux is considered to be one of the least dangerous cities in France. In fact, it’s ranked 9th out of the 11 police districts with more than 200,000 residents, with 72 crimes for every 1,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, the crime rate has been steadily decreasing for the last 15 years. On the other hand, the council is concerned about the “outbreak of anti-social behaviour” in some neighbourhoods, particularly in relation to drug trafficking.

 To reassure pedestrians, the council has provided more lighting in populated areas and streets at night (squares, platforms, alleys …). In addition, the city has cameras installed on street corners, rooftops, and other strategic locations. There are a total of 105 cameras throughout the city.

Lastly, the particularly low crime rate can also be attributed to urban planning, which used the tramway to connect the more problematic neighbourhoods to the city centre in less than 15 minutes, giving their residents a genuine sense of being part of the city.

  1. How can urban planning improve coexistence and integration between different groups?

 Connecting the Right Bank with the Left Bank, via the tramway and the different bridges, has opened up the historic centre of the city to a group of residents who were previously peripheral to it. At the same time, the city has taken a more dynamic and homogeneous approach to creating new places to live.

For the last 10 years, the National Urban Regeneration Programme has been rallying the public and private sectors, elected officials, government services, social bodies, HLM (rent-controlled housing) bodies, and residents to renew more than 500 French neighbourhoods with particularly poor living conditions. These include two districts on Bordeaux’s Right Bank: La Benauge, and to the north of the city, Les Aubiers.

Additionally, three French architectural firms have received the Mies van der Rohe European Union award for the transformation of 530 units of social housing in the Grand Parc district of Bordeaux. To prevent the demolition of several housing blocks, the architectural firms Lacaton and Vassall, Frédéric Druot, and Christophe Hutin joined forces to renovate them. By renovating, all the flats gained in both surface area and natural light. Demolishing is four times more expensive than renovating.


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Otto M. J. Adang: “In the management of public order, interacting and communicating are important tactical tools”

Prof. Otto M.J. Adang (1956) is a behavioural scientist. He has been a lecturer in Public Order & Hazard Management at the Police Academy since 2004. Adang is interested in aggression, reconciliation and collective behaviour in relation to public order enforcement. Since 1998, he has led the Violence and Hazard Management research program in conflict situations, which he set up, aimed at the interaction between police and civilians.

Nowadays Prof. Adang holds several responsibilities.. He is chair in Public order Management and Academic Dean MSc Policing at the Police Academy of the Netherlands. Since 1 April 2016, he is also professor by special appointment of Security and collective behaviour at the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences at the University of Groningen. And since 2018 he is a visiting professor at the Canterbury  Center of Policing research.

Which have been, in your opinion, the most important changes in public order management the last 10 years in Europe?

The most important change I have seen in the last decades in public order policing in Europe is the development from a one-sided focus on riot control, where the emphasis is on policing disorder, with a low threshold for the undifferentiated use of less-than-lethal weapons, to a more modern and flexible public order management approach where the emphasis is on promoting order setting limits and boundaries in a friendly and firm way.

Admittedly, not all countries have shown this change, but I see how more and more “good practices” in the management of public events are identified.

Actually, what is a good practice? It is good practice to avoid unnecessary frictions and to facilitate the legitimate activities and intentions of participants as far as possible. Monitoring and observing an event in real time is considered important to identify potential problems and to deal with them from an early stage onwards. This involves communicating with participants and informing them to learn what affects them, to avoid misunderstandings about measures being taken and to gain compliance.

In line with the aforementioned question and regarding the last developments, were we are going now? Which will be, in your opinion, the next steps to do?

We could point out several general trends in western countries. Most of them came from an increasing interest to incorporate current scientific understanding into the policing of public events.

Just to mention the some of the most important trends, we find an increasing flexibility where the police, as a whole, or different units can switch easily between different approaches and can easily move about.  In that sense, gaining in flexibility means make changes in their tactics and strategies in terms of reaction or prevention. For instance, there is a general pattern in giving more attention to evidence gathering to increase the “quality” of arrests and to enhance possibilities for successful prosecution and to prefer a perpetrator-focused approach over a collective approach with mass detentions or containments. Nonetheless, we also find a deeper use of a friendly and firm strategic approach centered upon the facilitation of peaceful behaviour and a graded, differentiated and information led approach which increases police capability for dialogue, communication and low-key, targeted interventions at an early stage. In Sweden the talk is about Special Police Tactics, Berlin developed the strategy of the outstretched hand and the UK prides itself on the British model. “Dialogue units” are formed increasingly. For instance, in Germany’s anti-conflict teams, Sweden’s dialogue police, forward intelligence units in the UK, although these latter have gradually taken on a different role).

There is also a general trend to lend more attention to debriefings after “problematic” events, the identification of good practices and the exchange of learning points between forces.

And finally, as regards the intelligence is concerned, there is general agreement about the importance of intelligence about “known” perpetrators. Yet, there is also general dissatisfaction with the quality of the intelligence and a recognition of the fact that intelligence on “known” perpetrators is insufficient and cannot replace an understanding of sensitivities and crowd dynamics in a given context. The international trends reflect an increasing awareness of the mechanisms which trigger collective violence and which measures are more effective than others.

Taking into account your international and academic experience, which do you think are the best police practices/approach to keep the social peace?

Intelligence is seen as a very important means to identify groups of known troublemakers looking for confrontations. For their risk-perception, it should be clear to them (and others) which effective measures will be taken if they transgress these limits. By getting to know them, their anonymity to authorities is reduced. It is good practice to avoid taking measures that create or emphasize an us vs. them situation as much as possible. Interacting and communicating are important tactical tools in this respect. When violence does occur, it is considered good practice to act in a timely fashion rather than wait for situations to escalate and get out of hand and to do this in a focused and targeted way, aimed specifically at those individuals transgressing limits, be they hooligans or activists employing black-block tactics. On the other hand it is recognized that the opportunistic nature of much of collective violence puts a limit on the usefulness of intelligence: once violence escalates, the number of available options runs out quickly. Because of the uncertainties involved, preparations involving a variety of “what-if scenarios” are considered essential.

And finally, regarding public order management, have you detected any bad praxis in Western Europe that deserves to be pointed out?  To what factors would you attribute this malpractice?

Some clear trends can be discerned across countries in relation to the policing of public events.

Where a need for change is felt, this is not for changes in legislation or new powers. Instead, there is a need for a better understanding and use of existing legislation.

Also, we need bear in mind that new weaponry is usually not the first priority. There are other needs so-called innovative less-than-lethal weapons are not innovative at all, because they essentially represent already existing technology that is not yet developed sufficiently to be used operationally, and because they are intrinsically linked to outdated concepts of riot control.

And finally, with regard to equipment, we need to shift towards an equipment for a better personal protection of police officers, equipment to improve communication with and between police officers, equipment to improve possibilities for communication with participants at crowd events, equipment to improve possibilities for information or evidence gathering, or equipment that helps to increase flexibility.


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Clara Luz Flores Carrales: “It is necessary to systemise and professionalise corporations”

Municipal President of Escobedo, Nuevo León, México. She has a degree in Legal Sciences awarded by the Universidad Regiomontana and a Master’s qualification in Administrative Law from the University of Zaragoza, Spain.

 She has performed as a lecturer regarding Public Security and has participated in several courses involving Advanced Public Management.

A very noteworthy highlight of her career is the fact that she was one of the first female mayors to be re-elected in Mexico. Over different periods, she has been elected on three occasions as Municipal President of General Escobedo, Nuevo León.

She has been recognised by the National Conference of Municipal Public Security, as the Escobedo Security Model was selected for implementation all over Mexico, as a source of strategies for the prevention and reduction of violence, and the elimination of “criminal factories”.

What makes a person like you, with a solid social position, decide to concentrate her political activity on the fight against crime, violence and extortion, even to the extent that your life is continually put at risk (and that of a descendant)?

I believe that as citizens we must stand firm and act so that our environment can be a better one, and that we need to reject apathy and be proactive. And that’s why my conviction is participate, from my position, in an environment with a quality of life, peace and calm for my family, for my neighbours, for my community, for my state and, of course, for my country.

You are, at this moment, a real authority in the field of Public Security policies, but not only in your state, Nuevo León, but all over Mexico, as you have been appointed President of the National Conference of Security. What do you think your security strategy has that makes it appear to be an alternative, perhaps even a source of hope for security policies all over Mexico?

For me, the key is that this approach aims to get to the root of the insecurity problem: to prevent our children and young from seeing the criminal pathway as an alternative and, moreover, our strategy is comprehensive and bears in mind factors such as prevention, protecting people’s physical activity and their belongings based on analysis and investigation, focusing on social justice with the police force being trusted by the general public

No important person in the field of security questions the great work being done by General Lara as he completely transforms the Escobedo police force, bring it closer to the public and also more efficient when fighting crime. However, some are rather disappointed that your regarded turning to a high-ranking soldier to be the only solution to the Escobedo security problem. What would you say to these critics?

I would tell them that the incorporation of a soldier to conduct the secretariat took place in a context of extreme violence. From that outset, the strategy and the skills of police chiefs and their leaders have evolved with training and courses, meaning that the corporation is now a different one from top to bottom.

Another reason for taking this decision is that military training and its steely discipline results in ordered individuals who are driven by conviction to perform the tasks that they are assigned. Moreover, people have different learning capacities and potential to evolve and, in the case of the general, he already has a combination of police officer and soldier given the interdependent nature they each have.

From your double vantage point (mayor of Escobedo and president of the national Conference of Security), how do you feel about Mexico’s future in terms of security? What needs to happen to reverse the growing, in recent years, escalation of violence that is hitting the country? What formulas need to be applied at a federal level to add to such positive experiences like the one you have steered at a municipal level? Is the new National Guard a solution?

Corporations need to be systemised and professionalised, with processes and procedures being assessed on a regular basis, which is what has worked for us. Implementing an appropriate model in each municipality is vital because if the municipality assumes its responsibility a virtuous cycle will be created where each municipality, followed by the state and the Federation, which incidentally is aware and accepts this, work in order to redress this problem.

I think steps are being taken in the right direction to get out of this spiral. I am convinced that the model of municipal police force that is to be implemented in the country such as programmes to stop family and social violence have the necessary experience and methodological elements to achieve this.

The guard is one of the elements that is part of a group of actions that must be articulated on the part of municipalities as a model for a municipal police force and skills development.


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