SABEW Joins 23 Journalism Organizations in a Letter to Law Enforcement Organizations

To: American Academy of Forensic Sciences, American Criminal Justice Association,
American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, Association of Firearm and Tool Mark
Examiners, California Narcotic Officers’ Association, Federal Criminal Investigators
Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Fraternal Order of Police,
International Association for Identification, International Association of Bloodstain
Pattern Analysts, International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association
of Women Police, International Crime Scene Investigator’s Association, Massachusetts
Association of Women in Law Enforcement, National Asian Peace Officers’ Association,
National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, National Association of Police
Organizations, The National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives,
National Black Police Association, National Criminal Justice Honor Society, National
Latino Peace Officers Association, The National Organization of Black Women in Law
Enforcement, National Sheriffs’ Association, Same Shield, The United Deputy Sheriffs’
Association, Women in Federal Law Enforcement, The Young Forensic Scientists

Oct. 30, 2020

Dear law enforcement leaders,

It is no secret that 2020 has been a unique and challenging year for all of us. Law
enforcement professionals and journalists alike face new and greater challenges and
more scrutiny than ever before.

We understand and respect the difficult job you are required to do every day. We see it
up close. The scenes and situations that demand so much of your attention are often
the same as ours. We both have obligations, through our professions, to the American
public: Yours is to protect. Ours is to inform.

Yet our profession is the only one explicitly named and protected in the U.S.
Constitution. Despite the time-tested First Amendment, law enforcement authorities
nationwide have been targeting and arresting journalists with alarming frequency in
recent years, and especially during this year’s protests.

As a leader in one of dozens of law enforcement organizations in the U.S., you have the
power to change this. You can influence the attitudes and actions of your members. You
can ask them to refrain from arresting journalists — and if and when journalists have
been arrested, you can ask prosecutors to drop charges against them. We the people
are less able to govern ourselves absent the ability to know what is going on in our
society. And journalists are instrumental in making sure that Americans stay informed.

Our request is not politically motivated in any way. It is troubling that journalists can’t do
their jobs without fear of harassment, violence or arrest, or that charges against them
aren’t dropped as quickly as possible once the facts are sorted out. For centuries under
the First Amendment, law enforcement officers and journalists have both been able to
do their respective jobs without fear of conflict or harassment. We echo the sentiments
of a letter 32 journalism groups signed in June: You must persuade your colleagues,
commanders and chiefs, and the mayors and governors who direct them, to halt the
deliberate and devastating targeting of journalists in the field.

We urge you to speak out against the arrests of journalists in the field and to encourage
better officer training. We would be happy to discuss all of these issues with you in
further detail or take part in any training or discussions about best practices. The
signers of this letter represent print, broadcast and online journalists, photojournalists,
editors, directors and managers. If you’re interested in speaking to one or more of these
groups, please email or call 317-361-4134.

When journalists tell the stories of the communities your members protect and serve,
they tell the stories of your officers as well. There must be a way for both law
enforcement officials and journalists to do their respective jobs. Respectfully, all
journalists need to do their work without any officers stifling it.


Society of Professional Journalists
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association
Asian American Journalists Association
Associated Collegiate Press
Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
Center for Scholastic Journalism, Kent State University
Colorado Press Women
Education Writers Association
International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors
Journalism Education Association
Michigan State University
National Association of Black Journalists
National Federation of Press Women
National Scholastic Press Association
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
Native American Journalists Association
North American Agricultural Journalists
Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation
Religion News Association
Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing
Society of American Travel Writers
Student Press Law Center
Tully Center for Free Speech

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