During the August of 2011, the world was in uproar about the events that took place.
Over a time period of just five days around 15,000 people rioted, looted and damaged shops, homes and town centres across England. Shockingly, five people lost their lives and due to the looting that had taken place, many more people lost their businesses and homes. Over the short period of time, the financial cost to the country was around half a billion pounds.
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This assignment will start with theoretical reasons and research as to why the riots took place. It will also consider what procedures were put into place to prevent riots in the future from taking place. It will then follow with a research proposal in order to undergo a study involving the 2011 riots.
It is evident that after the riots questions were to arise from both the public and officials. Moreover, the main questions revolved around what could possibly have caused such a terrible incident to happen and what lessons were learnt in order to stop it reoccurring in the future. The prevalent factor that was suggested by MPs was that of anger and a widespread feeling of disenfranchisement from society by large numbers of young people. In light of this outrage, surprisingly, it was only a few MPs that suggested other factors were the cause such as poverty, unemployment and groups. These were clearly issues that needed to be fully addressed and procedures put into place to prevent anything like this happening again, and to ensure as comprehensive a reintegration back into society of these disaffected people. This debate that took place between the public and MPs became extremely problematic, with sections of the community virtually demonised in the media, and many institutions didn’t feel they possess enough of an understanding of the conditions that lead to these events to enable them to discuss people, their situations and proffer sustainable long term solutions. This is why there is a need for further psychological study within this sector, as there are clearly underlying reasons as to why the riots happened and also why they have not happened again. As mentioned, the purpose of this assignment, is to describe current psychological knowledge and how it can be used to understand looting, riots and peoples motives and also not just how to deal with them but how they were prevented from repeating.
In response to the riots, there was a general consensus between both MPs and the general populous in England that there were only two ways to respond to the events of August 2011: help the communities cope better with certain social and emotional problems or severely punish the looters. However, a much more detailed and holistic understanding of what happened and why helps avoid kneejerk, simplistic responses, which is why there needs to be further studies undertaken. Jonathan Bean (2000) pointed out in his newspaper, that, the looters that took part in the riots in the United States in the 1960’s and 70’s were considered a small, marginal, minority community and that the overwhelming majority of residents in the affected areas were appalled by events, something that has been backed up by numerous pieces of research in the intervening 50 plus years. Thus, rioters and looters made it more difficult for those trying to improve their community and resolve their problems in a peaceful and orderly mean. The rioters were purely acting on self-interest and out of frustration at being marginalised in society. It becomes evident that much further study and research needs to be done in understanding what leads to individuals developing such a distorted sense of values and acting in such maladaptive ways.
Psychologically, the answer to this question is extremely complex, and previous study suggests that the solution isn’t just as easy as punishing the subgroups. This wouldn’t change behaviours and does nothing to help those in the disadvantaged communities and prevent similar happenings in the future. So, why was there no repeat of the 2011 riots, what happened to keep these events confined to a relatively short period of time? Have harsh sentences for 2011 offences had a deterrent effect? Has a switch to community focused policing lead to communities that are less divided and reduced the feelings of disenfranchisement? Are parents supervising their children more closely? Have schools been working to improve community relations? This paper is going to discuss the factors that contributed not to just the 2011 riots but also previous riots that have taken place to establish if there are any common themes, causes or circumstances that lead to mass social disorder and to measure the effectiveness of solutions that were put into place to prevent a repeat of the happenings in August 2011.
Certain studies state that it was the death of Mark Duggan that triggered the riots and lootings. The Metropolitan Police described the incident, as ‘extremely regrettable’ and went on further to say that ‘It is absolutely tragic that someone has died, but that does not give a criminal minority the right to destroy businesses’. This can be seen as true, but ignores underlying factors that have existed for a longer period of time prior to the 2011 riots such as; poverty, unemployment, and racial tensions.Karsten states that, ‘poverty and chronic unemployment can be causally related to a variety of serious psychological and social problems.’ The financial crash of 2008 led to somewhat fewer job opportunities, especially for the younger generations of England. This was compounded by a reduction in funding for local government which lead to the closure of many community centres, libraries and youth clubs within inner city areas, which could be a factor that affects younger people and reduce their social events and the receiving of positive social support. After the events of August 2011 the government tried to change this by instigating a Social Policy Review, in an attempt to understand the root causes of the social decay that manifested itself in the riots.
Another psychological factor that studies show to be a factor is that of maladaptive identity. It is an established concept that humans are a highly social species. Various researchers have ascertained that this way of life in groups evolved in order to increase access to necessities such as shelter and food which, according to Maslow is one of the major things needed for success.
Belonging to a group is amongst the basics we need for survival. Brown states that, ‘A group exists when two or more people define themselves as members of it, and when its existence is recognised by at least one other’. Furthermore, the largest part of one’s personal identity comes from being identified within group whether that be family, friends or the larger community. If you grow up to be part of a group that does not have access to as many other groups within you area, you will grow angry with the unfairness of society, which in turn feeds a sense of disenfranchisement and marginalisation. Within all of the Inner city areas that suffered from the riots in 2011 there are places of poverty and high unemployment rates, this inequality within society, left many young people feeling disempowered and with a feeling that they had no other alternative other than to turn to gang culture. This isolation directly lead to the looting and widespread destruction in a protest of their anger.
Another factor that contributes to the happenings in August is that of powerlessness and social unrest. Studies show that the areas seen to be in poverty and that have very poor educational opportunities also have limitations within career opportunities, this in effect takes away peoples power and social status within their community, thus leading to a diminished sense of oneself. This is when becoming part of a group, changed to finding gangs. This gives the leader a sense of respect but also encourages empowerment on members within the gang through identification. Moreover, members of a gang are more likely to commit crime as they all have the same beliefs and also share the same anger. Kelly & Karau state that’Many of the world’s most important decisions are made in small groups.
‘ Whether that be good or bad. Stoner also stated that group decisions were also riskier than those made by individuals. Furthermore, this is a topic that would be of interest to study further, and believe more studies need to be done on this subject in order to stop the formation of gangs and decrease gang related crime. This issue was raised by the government as a conclusion of the 2011 riots. They decided that public services would have an input to spot those struggling early, in order to help them before they became a member of a gang. They also stated that police and the public work together to support and maintain law and order.
This new model of community policing and these other changes I believe contributed to the fact there was no repeat of the 2011 riots in London. The rapid use of social media was also a factor that contributed to the rapid spread of the riots of 2011. People were using Twitter and Facebook to stream videos and communicate what they saw as ‘accomplishments’ with each other. Instigators were posting false information such as the killing of police officers which made matters worse and fuelled that violence within the communities. Social media was used to rapidly meet up with people or give strangers information on the next steps and what was happening. Social media has the potential to promote positive as well as negative consequences and deserves extensive research with respect to the social change process. In the years following this widespread unrest, the police and security agencies have greatly improved their use and knowledge of platforms such as Twitter in order to keep track on fast changing events, which has made it harder for potential miscreants to organise widespread civil unrest.
Another factor that played a huge part with the riots of 2011 was that of family attitudes and behaviour. The public stated that it is extremely important how young people are brought up. ‘A good upbringing can help to prevent bad behaviour within society.’ It all comes down to the psychological sense of belonging and back to being part of a group. If people don’t feel they are part of the family then they will look elsewhere to feel belonged. After the riots, the government set up a ‘Troubled families programme’ which was an intensive scheme to address the needs of families so they could focus on helping families become part of their community.
According to Bowlby many forms of psychiatric disturbance can be attributed to deviations in the development of attachment. The perceived lack of strong role model figures, particularly in the lives of young men, has been linked to a lack of discipline which lead to these men becoming involved in gang activity. To tackle this problem, absent fathers were contacted by social services and schools so they could be part of their children’s life. These were also factors that contributed to there being no repeat of the riots of August 2011.
This project The overall project aims from this study is to conclude why there has been no repeat of the 2011, English city riots. The main research questions are:1. Did the response to the 2011 city riots change people’s attitudes towards communities and how to deal with anger? 2. Have the riots had an impact on policing methods? Is it now less divisive? 3.
Have schools and authorities been working to help improve community relations?4. Are schools, parents and authorities supervising ‘problem families’ more closely?A three phase project over 33 months is proposed. The study will collect primary information from rioters, police and witnesses. Phase one will systematically describe the views from different people involved within the riots and examine the ways in which factors changed within society and communities. Phase two will examine links between theoretical researches and compare it to the new rules that government released to see if there is a change within schools, families and attitudes, this will also show if gangs are still forming within communities.
The final phase will involve analysis and the discussion of these findings, there will also be a comparison in the ways different cities dealt with the riots and what procedures were put into place to prevent them from happening again. MethodologyTo get detailed qualitative information on authorities, witnesses and rioters involved in the 2011 riots. I propose to questionnaire and interview a large number of people involved, approximately 150 of each person, within all six cities that were affected.
Such a design will need to recruit many researchers and students to build relations and maintain objectivity throughout the research. We will recruit psychology students from both the University of Central Lancashire and London universities to help us conduct interviews and collect completed questionnaires. Before the research takes place We will write to a number of different people that were convicted and a part of the riots and offer them the opportunity to take part in this study. It is also proposed that researchers make initial contact by visiting respondents at home, to help put them at ease. Primarily, it will be local contacts that are used to find such people that were involved in the riots but had not been arrested.
Anonymity will be offered as a chance for respondents to put their views across without fear of repercussions.The interviews that will take place will be in various locations, such as homes, cafes, youth clubs, libraries etc. We will ask The Ministry of Justice to allow us to have access to prisons, thus enabling us to create interviews with certain people convicted for their involvement in the riots. However, we are aware that there will be more people involved that will not have been convicted. Questions Both questionnaires and interviews will ask about age, origin, address, past criminal convictions etc.
however, other questions will include; · How many people do you know that were involved? · Have you proceeded in gang related incidents since the riots? · Have you engaged in any community initiatives since the riots? · How were you punished for your acts? · Why do you feel there has not been a repeat of events that happened in 2011? · What was the reason for our crime? The interviews for the police officials and judges will be along the same lines, however tweaked to fit their criteria; · How many people were convicted by you?· Have there been any more gang related incidents since the riots of 2011?· Do you feel there has been a change within communities to prevent this kind of riot happening again? · How were people punished for their acts?· What action do you think should have been taken in the aftermath of the riots?All interviews will be semi-prepared in order to get as much information and possible from the interviewees and different aspects and views from the five days of riots and looting. Phase oneThe first phase of this study will be completed in ten months. The use of questionnaires will be used to collect information of the riots, how people felt and how they feel it was resolved and why they felt it never happened again and procedures that were put into place afterwards. They will also be asked about families and schools and the way in which police officers deal with similar situations now. With this, basic demographic data will also be collected about the interviewees. This will include factors such as where they live, their ethnicity and age, their educational qualifications, whether they had previous criminal history and whether they currently work or have worked in the past.
As well as the questionnaires that will be handed out, we will also carry out confidential semi-prepared interviews with hundreds of people that were directly involved in the riots within the six cities that were effected. These will be recorded and will aim to bring up certain topics and resolutions. The interviews will be conducted in the knowledge that some respondents may be uncomfortable talking about certain aspects of their experiences, and this will be taken into account when asking follow up questions. This will also be emphasised as an important instruction to all interviewers in pre-interview briefings.
Interviews will last approximately 30-40 minutes. A handful of teachers from the local schools will also be interviewed to discuss how they have changed their support and input on students who give them cause for concern, to help make a difference within their community. Phase twoThe second phase of this study will also be completed in 10 months. This will involve semi-prepared interviews with police, judges and court officials and a series of community-based debates about the riots. The questions will be deliberately neutral and researchers as discussed in briefings will be discouraged from asking leading questions.
Each interview will last approximately 50 minutes and will be allowed extra time for an extended discussion between researchers and respondents. This will provide first-hand accounts of people’s experiences and perspectives, in order to continue the thread of authenticity established in phase one of the process. As mentioned above, all interviews will be recorded, transcribed and stored in a database. Phase threePhase three of the study will take 13 months, once all the data is collected. A team of research analysts will begin analysing the transcripts and questionnaires in search of themes.
Initially an analyst will read a transcript to get an overview of the contents and ideas being offered by the respondent. It will be important at this point to allow for the varying levels of engagement by respondents, due to issues around nervousness mentioned in phase two. Another issue to consider will be the potentially dramatically different types of articulation that different respondents will be capable of (with particular allowance for issues such as dialect). After several readings have taken place each transcript will then be coded, so particular themes that run throughout all transcripts can be identified and evidenced. A list of coding labels will then be produced – ideally themes and sub-themes that came to light throughout the interviews – and these will be reviewed by the research team on a regular basis. The links and relationships between these themes and sub-themes will be correlated, thus, providing a detailed picture of why there was never a repeat of the 2011 riots that occurred in England. Benefits and research outcomesIt is anticipated that the study will allow significant advances in theoretical understanding of the reasons why there was no repeat of the 2011, August riots in England.
I am also hoping it will contribute to further studies and research on factors that contribute to riots happening and further increase support in order to prevent the marginalisation and disenfranchisement of certain socio-economic groups from taking root in the first place.Interviews that take place will highlight important matters that arise within communities and society in order to prevent further lootings and riots happening within England and also other countries. Research states that other psychologists and authorities will be interested in the findings. Ethical considerations The ethics code of the British Psychological Society and regulations will be followed at all times, also ethics from the Data Protection Act. Participant consent will be sought and permission for reporting data. We will consider that this is an emotional topic and will be as considerate as possible, and if the need arises we can signpost respondents to relative services as they become necessary, such as counselling. Anonymity of all involved will be maintained at all times.