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Role of State and Local Law Enforcement at First Amendment Events Reference Card

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2011
2 pages

This paper outlines the rights of participants in first-amendment events, i.e., events in which people assemble peacefully to express and promote their views on any issue or cause; and it also outlines the role of State and local law enforcement at such events.


Under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, those under its jurisdiction have the right to organize and participate in peaceful assemblies in designated public areas, where they can express and promote their political, social, or religious views. At such events, State and local law enforcement officers are responsible for protecting the persons and behaviors that comply with first-amendment rights. This involves protecting life and property and ensuring that privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties are not infringed. Enforcement of laws should be impartial. The policing of those involved in the event should be restricted to law and ordinance compliance, which includes preventing the expansion of the event beyond designated boundaries, along with reasonable time and manner restrictions as discussed in the event operations plan. Police should not engage in unauthorized enforcement activities, including unauthorized information collection on individuals or groups. There should be no collections of information on persons based solely on their ethnicity, national origin, race, sexual orientation, or support for unpopular causes. While on duty, police officers should make no comments to event participants regarding support for or opposition to the causes or beliefs they are promoting.