Law Enforcement Guidelines for First Amendment-Protected Events

November 15, 2011

Law Enforcement Guidelines for First Amendment-Protected Events (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Homeland Security

As articulated in the United States Constitution, one of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment is the right of persons and groups to assemble peacefully. Whether demonstrating, counterprotesting, or showing support for a cause, individuals and groups have the right to peacefully gather. Law enforcement, in turn, has the responsibility to ensure public safety while protecting the privacy and associated rights of individuals.

To support agencies as they fulfill their public safety responsibilities, the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council (CICC) developed this paper to provide guidance and recommendations to law enforcement officers in understanding their role in First Amendment-protected events.

This paper is divided into three areas, designed to provide in-depth guidance for law enforcement.

  1. Pre-Event Stage—Discusses how law enforcement will plan for an event or demonstration where First Amendment protections are involved, focusing on the activity that begins when law enforcement leadership learns of an event and must determine the level, if any, of involvement at the event, from both public safety and investigative standpoints.
  2. Operational Stage—Focuses on how law enforcement will respond to the event, based on the findings from the Pre-Event Stage, including the development and execution of the Operations Plan.
  3. Post-Event Stage—Addresses how and whether information obtained as a result of the event (both during the Pre-Event Stage and Operational Stage) will be evaluated, disseminated, retained, or discarded, as per agency policy.

As agencies respond to First Amendment-protected events, law enforcement leadership should be aware of certain “red flag” issues that may arise as they assess whether the agency and personnel should be involved in these events and, if so, what form that involvement should take. As agencies review and understand the concepts and recommendations within this paper, special consideration should be given to these “red flag” issues to ensure that law enforcement agencies and personnel do not infringe on the rights of persons and groups.

Hat tip: PW

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