Same destination, different journey : a comparative study of public order policing in Britain and Spain

Barham, Derek Emilio (2016) Same destination, different journey : a comparative study of public order policing in Britain and Spain. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Public order policing is about power and control. The preservation and maintenance of order is a defining characteristic of the sovereign power. It is a highly political activity which is also emotive, controversial and reflects national culture and identity. Public order policing asks serious questions of the police and represents the most contentious policing activity in modern democratic states.

The purpose of this study is to increase and improve current knowledge of public order policing by comparing the policing of disorder in Britain and Spain. It reviews two high profile incidents, the 2011 London Riots and the 2014 "22M" Protests in Madrid, using a fusion of Waddington’s "Flashpoints Model" and Herbert’s "Normative Orders" to comparatively analyse the incidents. The study is supported by a comprehensive literature review and interviews with experienced police public order commanders.

This thesis concludes that British public order policing is in need of considerable reform to improve operational effectiveness, efficiency and professionalism. It identifies several key themes which contributed to the inability of the Metropolitan Police to respond effectively to the serious disorder and criminality which proliferated across 22 of London’s 32 boroughs in August 2011. These include the need to review British public order tactics, invest in the training of specialist public order units and improve the understanding of crowd psychology. Practical recommendations are suggested which would refine, enhance and improve the ability of the British public order policing model to respond to the challenges of serious disorder in the twenty first century.

BarhamDerek_ComparativeStudyOfPublicOrderPolicingInBritainAndSpain.pdf - Published Version

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