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Press Release

Readout of the Justice Department’s Meeting on Law Enforcement and Media Interactions During Mass Demonstrations

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

On Tuesday, Oct. 3, the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press convened a meeting of law enforcement executives and members of the press, facilitated by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), to discuss recommendations for law enforcement interactions with journalists during protests and mass demonstrations. The discussion was prompted by a request from the Reporters Committee, which expressed the need for concrete, specific suggestions that would account for both the important role of the working press in a functioning democracy, as well as the challenge of policing large protests and demonstrations.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who asked the COPS Office to convene the meeting, addressed the participants saying, “Each of you in this room has a difficult job. Journalists are entrusted with uncovering truth, holding those in power accountable, and providing the public with the information they need to make informed decisions. Law enforcement officers are constantly balancing their mandate to preserve public safety and fight crime, with the imperative to work constantly and consistently to build trust and maintain positive relationships with the communities they serve.” Associate Attorney General Gupta went on to say that “[t]he recommendations that come from today’s discussion, and the many conversations leading up to this event, will without a doubt accrue to everyone’s benefit.”  

Last year, the department issued recommendations for law enforcement related to First Amendment issues in the context of mass demonstrations, but yesterday’s discussion focused specifically on best practices for law enforcement interactions with journalists.

The group discussed issues including safeguarding First Amendment rights, the identification of members of the news media during protest activity, the utility in a persistent point of contact for open communication between press and police during protest activity, the importance of developing relationships between the press and police in advance of demonstrations, the need for a “playbook” before a planned event, the challenges brought about by social media, and more. The result of the discussion will be a series of recommendations that will be widely disseminated by the Justice Department, law enforcement organizations, and the media.

In addition to the Associate Attorney General, attendees included COPS Office Director Hugh Clements, other Justice Department officials and COPS Office staff; representatives of the Reporters Committee; journalists, editors and senior managers from major broadcast and print outlets; and law enforcement executives from across the country.

Updated October 5, 2023

Press Release Number: 23-1103