Police

Police to Be Trained on Concept of Free Press As Part of Ferguson Journalists' Lawsuit Settlement

St. Louis County PD adopts new "public information and news policy" following lawsuit alleging reporters were denied constitutional rights.

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A right to record.
Loavesofbread via Wikimedia Commons

A federal lawsuit filed by four journalists arrested while reporting on the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri against the St. Louis County police was settled last week, with neither side admitting fault.

However, in addition to paying $75,000 to the plaintiffs, the police have agreed to adopt new protocols regarding how they deal with news media, as well as provide mandatory training for officers regarding the new policies. 

The reporters had alleged that their First and Fourth Amendment rights had been violated when they were detained without probable cause, and that they suffered unlawful battery after being shot with rubber bullets, severely handcuffed with plastic cuffs, and denied water for hours during their detention. 

The St. Louis County Chief of Police's office released the new "Public Information and News Media Policy," which states in its introduction, "This Department recognizes that protecting the constitutional guarantees of both fair trial and free press is a responsibility of the police."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that one of the journalists who filed suit, Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept, wrote in an email following the settlement:

[We] pursued the lawsuit in hopes of improving interactions between the police and the press. We believe it is crucial to ensure that reporters in the field are able to do their jobs — including and especially in situations such as the protests in Ferguson — and we are hopeful that these changes will mark a step in that direction.

The new policy states that police "may not threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage or interfere with the recording of police activities" and also affirms the public's "unambiguous First Amendment right to record officers in public places, as long as their actions do not interfere with the officers' duties or the safety of officers or others. Officers should assume that they are being recorded at all times when on duty in a public space."

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  1. [We] pursued the lawsuit in hopes of improving interactions between the police and the press.

    Bullshit.

    1. So, I guess you aren’t a conservative.

    2. “Boo-shit” as my Vietnamese friends say.

  2. as long as their actions do not interfere with the officers’ duties or the safety of officers or others

    Now all the police have to do is say that they felt like they were being interfered with, or that the act of recording made them feel unsafe, and they’ve got a green light to do whatever they want. This won’t change a thing.

    1. Yep, for a second there I was afraid the cops’ carte blanche was imperiled even a little bit. I should have had more faith in public servants.

      1. As long as the policy contains words that give them a way out, those are the words they will use in their reports and in court. Whether or not those words correspond with reality are immaterial.

    2. Bingo.

      (though even if that sentence wasn’t there, it’s not like there’d be any punishment to the officers if they broke the rules here)

    3. And what will matter is their perception of being interfered with or threatened, and what they thought the Constitution said. Reality will have no bearing.

    4. I’ll go one step further and guess they just agreed to this for PR, and there will never be any actual ‘training.’ They’ll assign maybe one guy to put together a power point and say they did it.

      1. Of course there will be training. That way cops get to sit in the briefing room collecting regular hours listening to some rando speaker so they can get golden time while they’re doing their regular duties.

  3. “This Department recognizes that protecting the constitutional guarantees of both fair trial and free press is a responsibility of the police.”

    Bullshit.

    1. Unless “This Department” is some kind of collective consciousness that knows things that none of the individuals making it up knows.

  4. “Police to be trained not to break the law”

    Fucking novel.

    1. The constitution really needs an enforcement mechanism with criminal penalties. You violate someone’s free press rights, 10 years in prison.

      1. They had one until Screws v US.

  5. And they only beat their spouses because they haven’t trained not to.

  6. Are there any consequences for officers who ignore the policy? No? Then it is merely a suggestion.

    1. The cops know the law. They openly choose to ignore it because the city governments, major media, and other fraidy cats have their backs.

  7. #1 If someone has a valid press pass, only shoot them with rubber bullets or bean bags. (3rd best birthday ever!)

    #1a If a press pass can’t be validated, they’re terrorists.

    1. #2 Press pass validation requires 3 additional forms of ID, a SS card, a notarized copy of a birth certificate, and a written acknowledgement from a judge, the DA’s office, and the current police chief. And a 15 day waiting period.

      #3 Individuals with a validated press pass will be escorted to the organized press containment area, in a safe undisclosed location, to await official release of statements and evidence.

      #4 Questions from all press should be directed to the FYTW department.

  8. Free Speech, Pig Motherfuckers! Do You SPEAK IT????

  9. That’s why there is mandatory training involved in this so that the offices can be trained in what language to use in order to suppress freedom of the press in the name of public safety.

  10. So, cash in a little overtime while being “trained” that nothing has really changed as long as they use the new magic words to justify their brutish aggression.

    Win / uhh, win?

  11. “The reporters had alleged that their First and Fourth Amendment rights had been violated when they were detained without probable cause, and that they suffered unlawful battery after being shot with rubber bullets, severely handcuffed with plastic cuffs, and denied water for hours during their detention.”

    And this is wrong…because they’re reporters?

    Ooh, look, you’re so special, because of your jobs that you’re protected against unreasonable seizure.

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