Professor Clifford Stott - Are we all in it together? Policing Human Rights, Security and Democracy during the Covid-19 pandemic

ILAS Grand Challenges lecture series

The Covid 19 pandemic has exposed multiple and complex ‘Grand Challenges’ to human society. The highly contagious nature of the virus, its mode of transmission, age range impacts and fatality rate have all been critically important factors threatening lives and health care systems across the planet. As the outbreak developed societies began to recognise that the disease had profound implications, for which the UK was ill prepared. This was despite the country’s relatively highly advanced ‘off the shelf’ civil contingency preparations. In the absence of vaccination, the capacity of nation states to control public behaviour was the key, and perhaps only, weapon in fighting transmission. Consequently, an unprecedented ‘germ governance’ response from Governments internationally began to take shape. International norms pushed and pulled nation states in the direction of highly securitised ‘lockdowns’ allowing for draconian constraints of basic democratic freedoms and increased powers of police enforcement.

In this talk I will explore some of the specific security and policing dimensions of this unprecedented threat to our societies. In particular, I will focus on how a programme of research and theory on the social psychological dynamics of riots and policing has interfaced dynamically with policy and practice decisions in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. In so doing I will try to draw out some of the lessons about the value of the behavioural and social sciences within the pandemic in helping to understand and address some of the complex challenges the UK has had to address. In particular, I will discuss how our research programme and ethos at Keele has interfaced with Government policy through the Behavioural Science sub-Committee of the Scientific Advisory Group in Emergencies (SAGE), with regards to issues of compliance with and enforcement of public health guidance. I will conclude by suggesting some of the lessons we might take forward in terms of understanding how Universities can best be positioned to feed research meaningfully into the policy environment during the future global challenges and mass emergencies we will inevitably have to face.


I am currently a Professor of Social Psychology in the School of Psychology, Dean for Research in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, and Director of the Keele Policing Academic Collaboration (KPAC), one of Keele’s Strategic Research Centres. I joined Keele in March 2016 from a position as Principal Research Fellow in Security and Justice in the School of Law at the University of Leeds. I have an interdisciplinary focus and specialize in understanding the nature and role of social identity processes and intergroup relationships in the psychology and dynamics of crowd behaviour, ‘riots’, ‘hooliganism’ and ‘public order’ policing. I have held Lectureships and Senior Lectureships at the Universities of Bath, Abertay Dundee and Liverpool. I have also held Visiting Professorships at Aarhus University in Demark, at the Leeds University Business School along with Visiting Fellowships and Scholarships at the Australian National University, the University of Exeter and Flinders University in Adelaide.

Twitter: @cliffordstott

We will be hosting this lecture via Microsoft Teams. If you would like to attend, please register (by no later than 4.00pm on the day of the lecture) and joining instructions with further information will follow ahead of the lecture.

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Online via Microsoft Teams
Steve Kilner
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01782 7 34449

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