Balancing Operational Challenges of Law Enforcement with First Amendment Rights

Balancing Operational Challenges of Law Enforcement with First Amendment Rights
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-07-26
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Balancing Operational Challenges of Law Enforcement with First Amendment Rights
Unit 2Transcript: Balancing Operational Challenges of Law Enforcement with First Amendment Rights
Unit 3Workbook: Balancing Operational Challenges of Law Enforcement with First Amendment Rights
Unit 4Recording: Balancing Operational Challenges of Law Enforcement with First Amendment Rights

A picture is worth a thousand words – but a video of a police officer can garner a million views and is on the internet forever. In today’s world, cameras are everywhere, and with that comes the fact that anyone can be capturing your actions any time, anywhere. This webinar explores citizens’ and journalists’ rights and limitations when it comes to documenting law enforcement performing their official duties.

Leading the discussion are Mickey H. Osterreicher and Michael Parker. Mickey is a general counsel to the National Press Photographers Association, an award-winning photojournalist with over forty years of experience, and a uniformed reserve deputy sheriff since 1976. Meanwhile, Michael Parker is an International Strategic Communications Advisor, a contractor for USDOJ, serves as Chair of the IACP IMPACT Section, an IADLEST International Certified Instructor, and previously served as a Commander with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Specifics of the discussion include:

  • How photos captured a lot of momentous events in history, headlines that show how the prevalence of cameras is reshaping how stories are told, and the similarities between journalists and law enforcement.
  • Reviewing the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments – what each of these mandate and the restrictions and exceptions that apply as it relates to the public and press capturing officers on-duty.
  • Protections provided to journalists through the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 and the concept of Reasonable Expectation of Privacy.
  • The factors that come into play and create the perfect storm where law enforcement officers are compromised and more likely to commit mistakes in their role.
  • The importance of policies and training to ensure officers know how to handle these situations and avoid them if possible.
  • The hostility that journalists face, particularly during protests.
  • How the US-DOJ provided guidance to different states and agencies as it relates to case rulings that involve First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
  • Search and seizure for cameras and cellphones, exigent circumstances that may allow search and seizure of such devices, premises that must be met to ensure the legality of the seizure, and consequences of not abiding by these.
  • The concept of reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions that a law enforcement officer must be able to include when providing instructions to those who are documenting their operations.
  • The common charges that law enforcement tend to use to restrict individuals’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights.
  • How the press doesn’t have greater nor less of a right to access and record such events than the public.
  • The concept of qualified immunity that law enforcement officers tend to utilize in civil rights lawsuits and the conditions that must be satisfied to overcome the assertion of qualified immunity.
  • Prohibitions related to how officers interact with the press and the public included in model policy.
  • Tips to avoid becoming the next viral star and handle First Amendment auditors that highlight:
    • The importance of focusing on safety of officers and the public instead of fixating on the camera.
    • Convincing instead of commanding, appealing to the public’s sense of right and wrong, and avoiding prolonged discussions.
    • Providing specific instruction on the time, place, and manner to the press or public when asking them to move.
    • Look out after each other and de-escalate other officers who end up in such interactions
  • More guidelines to take into account in policy creation in terms of crowd control and interaction between law enforcement, the press, and the public.
  • The value of fostering communication and relationships between law enforcement and journalists to establish rules of engagement and prevent friction.
  • Different case examples were provided to demonstrate:
    • Officers that confront the public for recording law enforcement operations and the outcomes of these incidents.
    • The civil rights lawsuits that follow an arrest of a journalist or private citizen for recording police activities and the court’s ruling in such cases, including those that asserted qualified immunity.

Questions from the audience are about:

  • How to handle profanity being directed at the officer and what officers can do to de-escalate this.
  • The legality of no phone policies in courthouses and police and probation departments.


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Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “It was so eye-opening, in my 21 years in law enforcement I’ve never received any training on this topic. The presenters did a great job!” — Joycelyn
  • “It’s very basic but I really liked the stress being placed on if the person has a legal right to be somewhere, the camera is irrelevant. Don’t mention the camera. Great job Mike & Mickey!” — Nelly
  • “All of the information was valuable, but most importantly the information on making sure not to violate any amendments and no viewing yourself as the law itself and making an arrest simply because someone did not do what you said without a lawful basis.” — Crystal
  • “Most valuable thing learned, was insuring all our policies and training are current. — Everett
  • It reinforces that even trained officers can make \bad decisions in the heat of the moment and to continue to train for that.” — Bentley


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