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Brief History of the Association of Chief Police Officers

Public Order and Disorder

In the United Kingdom, public disorder  (such as hooliganism, violent protests and riots)  is a breach of the ‘Queen’s Peace’ .
Illustration of 2 policemen holding a protester by the arms and carrying him away
Policemen Carrying a Protester
In situations of public disorder, the police can use:
  • Police Support Units (PSUs) – groups of police officers specially trained in public disorder situations
  • Riot equipment (such as shields and helmets)
  • Crowd control tactics
  • Police dogs
  • Mounted police – on horseback
Illustration of five policemen in riot gear 1980s.  They all have riot shields on their left arms but other than that and their helmets, they have no other protection.
Illustration of Police Riot Gear in the 1980s
The police approaches to riots (the equipment and tactics they use) have changed over time. There has often been criticism of police tactics (even recently with the introduction of ‘kettling’ in the 1990s). Tactics in approaching crowd control has been discussed at length by the police, with ACPO central to the discussion.
Illustration of ‘Frontal Advance’ tactic used by police 1980s .  Plice stand two lines deep, the first with their shields out front, the second line hold their shields up higher and at an angle to protect from any projectiles thrown
Illustration of ‘Frontal Advance’ Tactic Used by Police 1980s


Hooliganism - violent and destructive behaviour by football fans

Violence - behaviour involving physical force to hurt, damage or kill someone or something

Protest – expression of objection to or disapproval of something

Public disorder – actions which upset society’s normal functions

Riot – a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd

Crowd control – management of crowds at public events to prevent problems

Mounted police – policemen and women carrying out their duties on horseback

Tactics – method of approaching or tackling a particular problem

'Kettling’ – surrounding of protesters by police so that there is only one exit for protesters which police can control (in some cases there is no exit)