Reporters and photographers were among those swept up by police for failing to disperse during protests in September. After the Post-Dispatch complained, police officials say officers will be reminded each month that journalists must be allowed to do their job.
St. Louis police officers will be required each month to read and acknowledge a special order reiterating the rights of journalists, reports the city’s Post-Dispatch. The order by interim Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole states that members of media must be provided, at a minimum, the same access that others are given, but that scene commanders can use their discretion to grant journalists select privileges, so long as the officers’ duties and the safety of other members of the public won’t be compromised. Officers are expected to read such orders and acknowledge they’ve read and understand them on a monthly basis, O’Toole said. Also, the department will send all officers an advisory asking them to allow journalists to do their jobs and increase officer training in dealing with journalists.
The move stems from an Oct. 26 meeting between Post-Dispatch editors, Mayor Lyda Krewson and O’Toole to discuss the way police officers have interacted with reporters covering unrest over the acquittal of a former city officer in a fatal shooting. Post-Dispatch reporter Mike Faulk was arrested in September while on assignment at a protest downtown. On Sept. 17, Faulk was among roughly 100 people swept up when police used a tactic called “kettling” to box them in and arrest them on suspicion of failing to disperse. Attorney Joseph Martineau, who represents the Post-Dispatch, said the changes in protocol “serve as recognition that mistakes were made in arresting the journalists.” However, prosecutors say they have not decided whether to charge Faulk.