Date of Conferral





Criminal Justice


Howard M. Henderson


The response to civil disturbances has historically been the aggressive use of force or escalation with tactics such as the use of police dogs, armed federal troops during war protests, and police field forces. These types of tactics can escalate tensions between protestors and police and only add to the violence and destruction of the incident. To reduce the violence between protestors and the police and the destruction often associated with civil disturbances, it is necessary to examine the need to include de-escalation techniques in the responses. This study utilized 3 theoretical frameworks, the chaos theory, the behavioral decision theory and the strain theory, all which complement each other in interpreting the opinions and experiences of participants and civil disturbance responses. The research questions were used to determine the influence of experience, training, personal biases or external influences on decision making and elicit the opinions of respondents in how they would respond to a civil disturbance. Twenty-five respondents responsible for policy or response decisions regarding civil disturbances from southern U.S. state emergency management and law enforcement agencies took part in the survey. The results of a cross-tabulation analysis determined that there is a need for the inclusion of de-escalation techniques and that they would be effective in civil disturbances. The results also showed that an aggressive response was the preferred method to restoring or maintaining order, but there was a need to examine changes in response tactics. This study may be beneficial and provide a social impact through policy changes, which may lead to a lessening of the severity and scope of an incident.