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Department of Justice, Law & Criminology

Occupy San Francisco, taken by Thomas Hawk from

Research Project

Policing Protest: The Role of Community Policing in the Occupy Movement

Occupy Wall Street and the Police

On September 17th, 2011, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) officially launched in New York City’s Zuccotti Park. OWS spurred a larger Occupy movement that spread quickly across the country, with Occupy sites emerging throughout the U.S. in a matter of days.

Relations between police and OWS protestors have been mixed. Some sites have experienced neutral or positive interactions, while others have generated substantial conflict, including several notable instances of excessive force by police as well as violence against police by protesters.

The Occupy Movement, like many social movements, poses great challenges for police, including the dual responsibility for protecting civil rights while maintaining civil order. While the Occupy Movement and other protest movements bring police together in emotionally charged and potentially volatile environments, thoughtful police administrators are working hard to find ways to avoid the use of violence and abuse of authority by police.

Project Details

The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has provided funding to American University to carry out a nation-wide research study that will take stock of how police departments have responded to the OWS protests.

Through interviews with police officers, city officials, and protesters, this study will showcase the experiences of U.S. police agencies. These interviews will center on the protest policing practices of the department at the time of the OWS protests, perceptions of those practices by individuals outside the department, and lessons learned along the way.

This study will culminate in the production of a guidebook that will outline the experiences and lessons learned by these departments. This guidebook will serve as an invaluable resource in helping police agencies develop thoughtful community policing practices for managing social movements in the most effective, efficient, respectful, and just manner.

Project Goals

  • Develop knowledge and increase awareness surrounding best practices in protest policing.
  • Provide American police agencies with recommendations for institutionalizing community policing principles within protest policing strategies.
  • Develop a community policing toolkit from which police may select more appropriate strategies and tactics that simultaneously preserve public order and civil liberties.


Edward Maguire
Principal Investigator and Professor, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology
(202) 885-2769

Megan Oakley
Project Manager
(202) 213-7847

This web page is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 2012-CK-WX-K025 awarded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this website (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided.). References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.