Noakes Quoted on Police Crowd-Control Tactics

By Purnell T. Cropper | May 14, 2010

Dr. John Noakes, Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, is an expert on the relationship between the state and political dissent. He is quoted in a May 2 article “Campus shootings helped to change police tactics for demonstration” in The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) regarding new pre-emptive protestor-policing policies.

The article traces police tactics through the past several decades, noting that “during the last decade … cops have reverted to tougher tactics, especially when policing large, high-profile protests like the Pittsburgh summit…. This new approach, dubbed ‘command and control’ or ‘selective incapacitation,’ blends elements of both previous strategies. Police may negotiate small issues, but they impose strict limits on where, when, how and even if people can protest. The new pre-emptive policy seem to have lessened the risk of widespread, violent protester-police clashes, many protest policing experts conclude, but at the expense of free-speech rights.”

“There’s definitely a tradeoff,” Noakes was quoted. “You’re using force to prevent things from happening. By doing that early, and with these less-lethal weapons, there’s no blood on the street, no obvious moment or casualty that becomes a rallying cry. Obviously you don’t want people killed, but force is force.”

Questioning the balance between upholding American’s First Amendment Rights and keeping the peace, the article examines the dramatic change of equipment and tactics, from bayoneted guardsmen of the Kent State tragedy to the permit-issued, preplanned protests of today. Read the article.