St. Louis to Train Police Officers on the First Amendment

Demonstrators are arrested by police during a civil disobedience action on August 10, 2015 on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri. The night ended with over 10 arrests for disorderly conduct. St. Louis County declared a state of emergency Monday following a night of unrest in Ferguson, after a teenager was charged with shooting at police officers. The order was issued as an 18-year-old was charged in connection with a shootout in Ferguson August 9th  after a day of peaceful protests marking the first anniversary of the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.      AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL B. THOMAS        (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators are arrested by police during a civil disobedience action on August 10, 2015 on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri. The night ended with over 10 arrests for disorderly conduct. St. Louis County declared a state of emergency Monday following a night of unrest in Ferguson, after a teenager was charged with shooting at police officers. The order was issued as an 18-year-old was charged in connection with a shootout in Ferguson August 9th after a day of peaceful protests marking the first anniversary of the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL B. THOMAS (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)

Officers in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will undergo training on First Amendment rights under a mid-October settlement with four journalists who were arrested during the Ferguson, Missouri, protests two years ago.

The settlement, which HuffPost obtained through a public records request, requires those officers on the SWAT team and in the Civil Disobedience Unit to be trained in particular on how to deal with individuals who are recording police activity. The class will emphasize the rights of members of the press and public to observe, photograph and otherwise document the actions of police officers.

The training has to be completed within 90 days of the settlement’s effective date of Oct. 10.

Under the settlement, current and future recruits at the St. Louis police academy must also take the First Amendment class. The agreement runs until Oct. 7, 2019.

For their part, journalists Ryan Devereaux, Lukas Hermsmeier, Ansgar Graw and Frank Herrmann will receive a total of $12,500 from the city of St. Louis ― a figure that includes attorney fees and costs.

The four reporters filed their lawsuit against the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County, as well as several police officers, in March 2015. The suit argued that the chiefs of both the city and county police departments had “ignored, condoned and/or permitted a pattern of excessive force [and] false arrest” and had “failed to train, investigate and supervise their officers.”

The county settled with the journalists in May, agreeing that all its police officers would receive training on media access and the people’s right to record police activity. St. Louis County agreed to pay the journalists $75,000. And they, in turn, promised not to talk about the terms of the settlement.

In both settlements, which also cover the individual officers sued, the defendants did not admit to any liability.

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Source: Black Voices | Mariah Stewart