Video: Illan rua Wall on ‘Policing Atmospheres: Crowds, Protest and ‘Atmotechnics’’

Illan rua Wall introduces his TCS article ‘Policing Atmospheres: Crowds, Protest and ‘Atmotechnics’’


In 1983, the British police adopted their first public order policing manual, laying the foundations of a secretive archive. The manuals and training materials produced in the intervening years provide an untapped repository of affective thought. This article reads the 1983 and 2016 training materials for their atmospheric insights. It develops the term police ‘atmotechnics’ to describe interventions that are specifically designed to affect the crowded atmosphere of protest or other disorder. The manuals reveal a gradual shift from interventions designed to evince fear and awe, to ones that seek to calm crowds. But more importantly, they underline a shift from a linear understanding of atmotechnics (as a prelude to ‘the use of force’), to an affective feedback loop where specialised officers are deployed to ‘sense’ mood changes among crowds, allowing senior strategic and tactical decisions to take account of atmospheric conditions.

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