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Notes from the Field: Communication as a Tool to Prevent and Respond to Civil Disturbance

NCJ Number
Dan Flynn
Date Published
January 2018
3 pages

This paper by Chief Dan Flynn of the Marietta Police Department (Georgia) explains why he has found communication to be the key to predicting and preventing civil disorder and responding effectively when it occurs.


In the two examples of potential civil disorder that Flynn cites from his experience are the prospective appeal of the manslaughter conviction of a police officer in Dade County, Florida, and the meeting of the G-8 summit in Savannah, Georgia, in 2003. For both of these events that occurred in jurisdictions where Flynn was serving, he notes the importance of identifying future events that have the potential for stimulating civil disorder. In both of the cases cited, the police agency engaged in preparatory communication activities with communities or segments of the community that might engage in disruptive civil disorder. In the Dade County case, the police identified 15 to 30 year-old African-American males as potential rioters in the event the police officer was acquitted. The police department cosponsored a series of rap music concerts called "Jammin' With the Man," during which police officers interacted with a predominantly Black audience that numbered in the thousands. Although the police officer in the case was acquitted, no riots occurred. In the case of the G-8 summit, the history of violent protests at such summits warranted research on security at previous summits. It revealed that regular communication to the community about the importance of peaceful demonstrations and the role of the police in ensuring this proved to be effective in controlling unlawful behavior in demonstrations.