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Sports Related Riots: Understanding Group Behavior To Improve Police Strategy

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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When a celebration following a college sporting event turns into a riot, the consequences may be devastating to a school, a community, and the police department. This trend is increasing on campuses across the country, and the perceived randomness of violence has police departments and communities alarmed. Based on several assumptions, current police training and policy focuses on crowd movement and riot suppression, which minimizes the ability to influence a crowd to the point of preventing a riot. One assumption is that large crowds share group similarities. Police also use inaccurate behavioral markers to identify the changing mood of a crowd and base their response on these markers. This thesis identifies the differences among disturbances and focuses specifically on riots that occur following college sporting events in the United States, using supporting data from case studies of college sporting events between 1997 and 2015. Using the normative and social identity theories as models, this thesis shows that sports riots follow a specific pattern of social behaviors and shows how early intervention may influence the behavior of the crowd. Finally, it concludes with recommendations for police when managing the crowd before, during, and following a college sporting event.

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