The Riots of 1964 — Chapter 7

Research Director’s Report
Manning Van Nostrand, Director of Research

The Staff as a Research Team

Before considering data collected in the summer of 1965, it might be well to pause momentarily for a look at who collected the data and some of the problems they encountered as researchers at Hampton Beach.

As has been said before in other connections, this Project was, by design, staffed by amateurs. Although most of the youngsters were college students majoring in one phase or another of social science, none of them were skilled or experienced researchers from the professional standpoint. Other than the consulting staff, this could also be said concerning the Project Directors. While the Research Director has had considerable academic experience in the social sciences, he has not had much of the practical kinds of experience which are demanded of a professional researcher. All of these qualifications must be seriously appreciated when trying to understand the work which was carried on in research during the summer of 1965.

What kinds of problems does a group such as ours encounter while trying to carry out the kind of Project which was ours: Let us simply list them with no attempt whatsoever to be exhaustive:

  1. The first problem, obviously, is one of floundering. We were presented with a major kind of social engineering feat to be performed. In one sense, it is not quite just to expect that amateurs could perform capably. But, on the other hand, society is going to have to start somewhere to correct its ills. The floundering produced some genuine frustrations and not a little hostility. Seen in retrospect, such initial stages as these could have provided an opportunity for very real and meaningful learning experiences.
  2. By definition, the Project was both a demonstration and a research project. Saying this is one thing, but trying to put it into day-by-day operation is a far different sort of thing. The problem of scheduling, the interests and abilities of the young people, their cliques within the larger group of the staff all contribute to a dimension that is far more than academic when trying to draw a line between the demonstration and research phases of the Project. On the one hand, those people, consultants and the staff members interested in research, who had as their main responsibility the carrying out of the research, always thought that research was being slighted. But, on the other hand, the demands of the program were occasionally insatiable and demanded full concentration of all concerned with the Project. If one takes a general over-view of the Project, this division between research and demonstration was not debilitating. But, on a more mundane level, it was a problem which seemed continuous.
  3. If one considered research in an abstract, ideal sense, it was the one activity of the Project which captured whole-hearted support from both the Chamber of Commerce and the Police. But, when you face someone with an interview schedule you are neither abstract nor are you in some idealistic realm. The Police in particular had difficulty in fitting our research activities into their purview. There was an almost endless line of problems confronting us as we attempted to interview young people in the jail at Hampton Beach. An incomplete list would include: officers monitoring interviews, inability to provide names and access, inability even to talk to police authorities who were legitimately preoccupied with their duties, and a definitely stated policy on the part of the State Police of no cooperation in allowing their arrestees to be interviewed.

Each research instrument raised its individual problems. Some of the principle problems for each instrument are as follows:

  1. The Random Interview – Perhaps the most obvious problem concerning this most valuable tool was the fact that much of the richness of each response was dependent upon how skillful and/or patient the interviewer was in drawing out the person being interviewed. Under the conditions which have been outlined above, the interview was not as effective as it might have been. This matter comes under the heading of being a mixed blessing; college students are probably more successful in getting honest answers from their peers, but on the other hand, they are not uniformly skilled in this regard. There were many questions on the interview schedule which were really nothing more than guidelines.

    In the giving of this interview schedule there may be some bias in that so many of them were given in the “combat zone,” as it was called – that area of the Beach which had been the scene of previous hostile outbursts. The interviews were weighted toward the weekend and were mostly done during the day. While there may be more positive gain than negative effect from these conditions, they ought to be noted so that due qualification may be made.

  2. Perhaps the principle difficulty in working with the results of the Beach Observation Scale is that it was started relatively late in the season, sometime around the end of the first week in July. The times of observation necessarily had to be standardized, ,yet we realize in retrospect that perhaps these periods may not have reflected the ascendance of certain activities. For example, there were some activities of the police which were carried on more extensively on slack and late night hours of Beach use than when the Beach was heavily loaded with youngsters.

    There were a great many categories of behavior to be observed in the use of the Scale. While our observers were undoubtedly conscientious, not all categories were probably given equal weight. We might assume, for example, that it would naturally be more enticing to a budding sociologist to observe the methods being used by the police, rather than to observe how many youngsters were throwing balls on the beach.

  3. The Irritability-Deviance Scale had its particular set of difficulties focusing around the problems involved in giving the test to a number of elderly people. Such test administration was time consuming and required much patience on the part of the young people. Such difficulties as eyesight, a failure to comprehend immediately the nature and scope of the test and the problem of revealing an individual’s true age were some of the problems at this point.
  4. The Business Attitude Scale was a marvelous opportunity for the people of the community to enter into significant dialogue concerning their mutual problem with this instrument as the catalyst. However, we encountered the problem that “significant dialogue” is most time consuming. Many of the volunteers who were going to give this test found that they just could not find the time. Hence, there was a major problem, as far as this instrument is concerned, in a constant recruitment of interviewers. One individual in particular who had found himself at the chairmanship of the Research Committee, found it impossible to be involved in such a controversial topic. His indecisiveness raised some very real problems in the administration of this instrument.
  5. The Spring Interviews should be commented about when considering the various kinds of problems. In the first place, it would have been much more effective if there could have been a greater amount of work done on this aspect of the research work. But, time, money, personnel, lack of knowledge, lack of clear directive were problems in gaining the kind of information which should have been obtained from this particular instrument. Secondly, this information was worked over to such a point by the consultants and those involved in working the test through, we became so bogged down in the more pressing immediacies of the Project that it was not until mid-summer that we had clear notions as to just what was contained in these interviews. Their effectiveness was thereby greatly reduced, in terms of providing ways for us to explore during the summer of 1965.

    However, all these considerations aside, it is nothing short of miraculous considering all the facets of the Project that such mountainous reams of data should have been collected. That we have collected such data in as good shape as we actually did is a real tribute to the young people involved in the Project.

5. As a part of the problem facing the staff regarding research, it might be appropriate to mention certain salient facets of the community in which they would do the research. Mr. Estaver, in his report, has covered such topics as the population of young people on Hampton Beach, the dominant conservatism of the business community reflected in its report from the TAP Committee, and the general fears and anxieties revolving around the Beach economy. Suffice it to say, here was a community which was manfully trying to hide its fears and present to the world a gay, carefree atmosphere of a “Popular Family Resort.” The fears in the community had a two-edged quality; fear of another riot had opened them to considering the possibilities of taking a different tack in its understanding of the youth population which annually inundated them; on the other hand, they were no where near confident that “social work type programs” could solve the problem as they saw it. It is particularly relevant, then, to note the kinds of attitudes which the police had toward the summer problem.* As parallel programming, the international Association of Chiefs of Police was brought in to give the local police a course in the latest methods of police methods. While it is beyond the scope of this report to delve into their work, it is of great interest to report the findings of an opinion survey designed by Mr. Nelson Watson of IACP. This opinion survey was administered by IACP on the tenth and eleventh of June to a group of some forty officers of the local police force. Although there were hopeful overtures to the NH State Police to join in this training program, there was an adamant rejection of it by that constabulary. The IACP opinion survey is reproduced in this report to indicate a very important segment of opinion. It would be most rewarding if we could trace through with more sophisticated research devices how these attitudes were implemented on the Beach during the summer. We may
find occasion to comment on some of this as we journey through our research findings.

*We will consider the businessmen’s attitudes under the section dealing with that instrument.

Let us summarize the data of this IACP Opinion Survey.

Police perceive the following:

  1. Young people feel that they are “above” the law (1-1).
  2. Noisy kids should be ushered out of an area even though their behavior does not actually become unlawful according to the Police’s interpretation of merchant and citizen attitude. There is thereby set up within the police a very real conflict as to whether to enforce the letter of the law, or to bow to the obvious pressures from the community.
  3. There seems to be a fairly common agreement that the community expects the police to be more strict than usual, a slight majority of teenagers agree, say the police.
  4. A rather puzzling feature of this survey is seen in that the police feel that teenagers generally do not expect an officer to take necessary steps to defend himself. This might indicate a very real resentment in the officer toward the youngster that he could think that a youngster would have expectations so very far from his own.
  5. What are the important sources of trouble at the Beach, as seen by the police?
    1. Hostility directed toward them
    2. Lack of an organized program for recreation
    3. Uncontrolled and irresponsible behavior of youth. (We can probably say that this type of behavior is seen by the police as coming from a relatively small proportion of youth.)
    4. Police perceptions of adult attitude is that kids are away from home and have no respect for local people and property.
    5. Of all the important sources of difficulties, the police see the news media as the prime cause of the trouble.
    6. It is interesting to note that while the police feel the youngsters see the police as being out of tune with the times, the police feel – with a few dissenters – that they are up-to-date.
  6. The general impression one has of the police attitude toward their relationship to the young people on the Beach is one bordering on confusion. They see themselves as being held responsible for any occurrence of violence, and yet they are not sure if acceptance and understanding of the youth would produce any results. They are not sure if they are free to do the job “the way it should be done” – probably because they really do not know what to do. Contrary to what many of the youngsters seem to be saying, these officers are not sure whether a manly, formidable appearance will be required. These officers may be unaware of the conflicts which exist between the generations. There seems to be no particularly clear idea, with the exception of a challenge to police authority and flagrantly indecent sex play, as to what constitutes undesirable activity.
  7. It is interesting to note the fact that the preferred activity for keeping peace on Hampton Beach is an organized recreation program. They are not even hopeful for the tactic of keeping crowds moving, a staple in the police catalog of crowd control techniques. There seems to be a real question in the minds of the police as to the necessity or justification for total reliance on force.

The over-all picture one gets of this group of officers is that of being genuinely puzzled by the problem it faces. There are some real gaps in their understanding of adolescent psychology. Although there seems to be some latent hostility toward the youth, the officers as a group would prefer to take a more positive approach to the problem. It is probably safe to assume that among the officers there are a few individuals who have overt hostility and overbearing attitudes toward youth in particular. If this is true, if all the negative traits are concentrated in a few officers rather than spread evenly through the group, we have cause to say that this handful of officers is spoiling an otherwise positive group attitude. Personal observation and experience would lead me to suspect that this is the case. Moreover, it would seem that even in the most constructive of attitude sets there is the genuine threat that the real confusion as to role and method of enforcement serves as a real irritant which could well undermine the most positive of approaches.

In the most ideal sense the purpose of the research aspect of the Project was to provide stimulus to change and objectively to measure the kinds of changes which took place. The kinds of data we had for beginning phases, such as the police opinion survey just reported, we could not follow through on. Other difficulties within the Project itself, fears and obsessions within the community itself seemed to militate against doing the sort of research one envisions when in an academic setting.