What is Riot Control?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 26 January 2020
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Riot control is a term that describes the efforts to bring an end to violence and calm demonstrators when a riot develops. Police officers usually handle this task, but sometimes things get so out of control that Army personnel are needed. There is often an attempt to minimize injuries to protesters during riot control, and there has been a lot of technological development designed for that purpose. In some countries, riot control is handled in a very violent and authoritarian way, while other countries are very hesitant to use forceful control methods.

Riots usually happen because people are dissatisfied with their government. This can be because of discrimination, economic difficulties, or a feeling that the government isn't giving the people a voice in the decision-making process. Eventually, people may get angry, and sometimes this can boil over into street violence. It's generally possible for peaceful protests to suddenly turn violent because of the emotions in the crowd or the activities of police in attempting to silence protesters.

Riot control tactics used by police officers are often very organized. In many ways, they can resemble tactics used by infantry soldiers during the era of sword and shield fighting. The police will often advance on protesters in a line with shields raised. They may even practice advanced formation maneuvers that keep the crowd in front of them and help them avoid being surrounded.


The shields used by riot control officers protect them from sticks, rocks, or other improvised weapons they might encounter in the crowd. They aren't actually strong enough to stop a bullet, but guns aren't usually the predominant weapon used by crowds in a riot. The officers also usually wear helmets, goggles to protect the eyes from debris, and some kind of body armor.

In terms of weapons, riot control officers tend to rely heavily on batons as a way to defend themselves against crowds. This is a traditional weapon of riot control because it is perceived as being non-lethal, but sometimes lethal injuries do happen due to baton strikes. Other common weapons used in riot control include Tasers™ and rubber bullets.

Some people feel that modern weapons like Tasers™ actually lead to a greater quantity of violence in riots, even if they do lessen the severity of the violence. This is because officers might perceive that these weapons are safe, and they may use them without hesitation, whereas they would be much more hesitant to use a gun or a baton.


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