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Law Enforcement Guidelines for First Amendment-Protected Events

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2011
35 pages
This paper examines the appropriate role of law enforcement in events and demonstrations where First Amendment rights are involved.
This paper provides in-depth guidance and recommendations to law enforcement officers as they prepare for, respond to, and follow up with events, activities, and assemblies that are protected by the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. This process, while focusing on law enforcement's response to first amendment events and activities, is not designed to limit the ability of officers to engage in normal criminal investigations or public safety missions. A law enforcement agency may have special rules and procedures governing the levels of review and approval required to engage in preliminary or full investigations or other activities. As officers address these types of events, the three-stage process identified in this paper should be incorporated into agency policies, manuals, and/or directives. The Pre-Event Stage discusses how law enforcement should plan for an event which 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. The 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. The 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. List of resources