Policing Euro 2016 : Managing Risk and Threat
The reality of a major event is very different for the police, security services and local population who welcome the hundreds of thousands of visitors to their cities. This could be argued to be particularly so for the French authorities as police in ten host cities prepare for football events between 10th June and 10th July 2016.
Policing foreign nationals in the context of international football events is a public order role. This presents a number of considerations for local police forces and private security tasked with managing the influx. There may be language issues and potential for differences of shared norms, social values, and customs. Visiting foreign nationals may have their own perspectives on socially normative behaviour and of legitimate policing, which can differ from the hosts. There are also practical issues such as monitoring travel arrangements, borders, infrastructure and accommodation. The volume of spectators in attendance at a major international tournament can mean overwhelming crowds forming in the host cities (involving the creation of pop-up ‘camp sites’).
Researchers studying the policing of crowds recognise that approaches can generally be characterised on a continuum from high to low profile. This encapsulates the behavioural profile, uniform and visual deployment; including numbers, group sizes and tactical visibility (e.g., vehicles, weapons, animals). High profile tactics have been recognised for their ability to exacerbate tension rather than de-escalate.
Work at Euro 2000, for example, illustrated that the situations in which disorder arose most frequently were those where the police relied on high profile methods. Researchers studying Euro 2004 offered further support for this relationship. When they worked with a police force (PSP) to implement a low profile model (which increased to high profile in real time situations in which the risk arose). The other police force at the tournament (GNR) relied more robust high profile measures. The jurisdictions policed by the PSP were characterised by their absence of disorder but in the GNR policed areas there was mass disorder involving English fans in the cities. A similar pattern was found when researching Euro 2008; the police forces which co-operated with researchers to implement a low profile approach experienced a lesser need for utilisation of high profile approaches (compared to the policing in cities which did not work to implement the model (e.g., Adang & Brown, 2008). The extent to which the national teams who are drawn to play each other impacts on police profile was found to be significant.
Models of effective crowd management emphasise the significance of grading the police deployment from low profile police presence and increase to high profile on the basis of developments on the ground as the actual risk level increases and decreases. This balances the deployment to the
risk rather than employing a blanket ‘high profile’ approach. These recommendations have been included in EU Council guidelines for effective management of foreign nationals.
The emphasis on safety and security at Euro 2016 has been complicated by the emergence of the terrorist threat in recent years. The balance of risk perception has arguably shifted from ensuring order to ensuring safety and security as the political and social context in France has changed rapidly in the past 6 months. The country has extended the national state of emergency following the attacks in November 2015 to include June and July. Politicians, security and the local community have been preparing for the worst. The Gendarmerie have called for actors to assist training in the event of a chemical or biological attack (subjects of the terrorist attacks have revealed intent to target the event), creating a perception of a need for high level security.
Logistically tight security is likely to create ‘tension points’. At the stadium the risk of conflict between fans may be increased because of extending waiting time to pass through multiple security checks. This is especially true of the Fan-zones (viewing areas for fans without tickets), because these areas are primarily the responsibility of UEFA and private security. This can create difficulties with multi-agency partnerships in terms of facilitating shared mental models, knowledge and training.
There is a heavy air of security hanging over Euro 2016 and the conditions created by this approach are likely to detract from the carnalvselsque environment for fans travelling to host cities and may make disorder more likely. The extent to which the policing of the event turns out to be suited to an international football tournament rather than a counter terrorism operation, is yet to be seen but one thing is certain; the success of the police will rest on their ability to understand and effectively manage emerging risk.