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Recommendations for First Amendment-Protected Events for State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2011
36 pages

This guide contains recommendations for State and local law enforcement agencies in performing their duty to protect persons and groups who are exercising their first amendment right to assemble peacefully for the purpose of expressing and promoting their views and arguments on any issue or cause, as well as ensuring public safety in the course of such events.


The guide is divided into three sections. The first section assesses the pre-event stage of policing. It discusses a law enforcement agency's planning for an event or demonstration that is expected to involve first-amendment issues and protections. This pre-event planning should begin from the moment that law enforcement officials learn of such an event. During the pre-event planning stage, agency leaders should determine procedures for assessing or investigating the likely threats to first amendment rights and public safety during the event. Based on this assessment, alternative responses by law enforcement personnel should be assessed, along with the personnel and equipment resources likely to be needed based on the event assessment. The second section of this guide addresses the operational stage. This stage focuses on the logistics of law enforcement strategies under various scenarios that may emerge in the course of the event. The third section of the guide. The third section of the guide concerns the post-event stage, which involves an assessment of what happened at the event, with attention to any threats to the demonstrators, officers, or public safety. Police responses to various occurrences during the event and their implementation of planned operations are evaluated. Lessons are drawn for the policing of future similar events.