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Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton is a 33-year law enforcement veteran, a trainer, and the national spokesman for The American Council on Public Safety. He served 10 years with the Princeton (N.J.) Police Department and 23 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is an author who has published multiple books on law enforcement.
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Fine Line Between Lawful and Unlawful Protests

Officers working demonstrations must be consummate professionals in order to preserve the protesters' First Amendment rights and protect the public.

December 15, 2014  |  by Los Angeles Police Protective League

Countrywide protests serve as a reminder of the complexities law enforcement professionals face every day. Tragic events and demonstrations that can sometimes follow highlight the fact that there is a fine line between First Amendment rights to protest and speak out, on the one hand; and crossing the line to inflict damage on property, harm police, or endanger fellow citizens on the other.

Public safety requires cooperation and respect between police and citizens alike. For this reason among others, Los Angeles Police Department officers should be commended for their professionalism and dedication to all of our public safety.

Los Angeles police officers responding to recent demonstrations in Los Angeles went into the situations with a strong element of the unknown. It is important to remember that the very nature of everyday police work requires that officers subject themselves to risk; this is of course heightened when crowds form, and when protests take a turn towards violence.

During the demonstrations, LAPD officers detained hundreds of individuals without the use of force. These people were not detained because they were expressing their views or political opinion peacefully, but rather because they were interfering with others’ rights and refusing to disperse when given lawful orders and in some cases, inciting violence. It should be noted that these protesters were released in time to celebrate Thanksgiving at their homes. Through their courage in a time of tension, the LAPD serves as an example to all other law enforcement agencies.

The Los Angeles Daily News had it right in their editorial, “The police seem to have made arrests when the alternative was to let protesters endanger themselves and others, and block traffic on streets and the 101 Freeway near downtown; there were arrests for unlawful assembly, for alleged assaults on officers, and for outstanding warrants. Police should be held accountable if they’re proven to have detained people for unlawful assembly without warnings, but so far that doesn’t appear to be true.”

There will always be issues and decisions that every citizen may not agree with – it is simply the nature of who we are as Americans and as Angelenos. In these instances, we encourage all citizens to express their views.

That said, we ask the citizens of this great City to help reduce situations that might create new risks – to themselves, to the City, and to the officers of the LAPD. The LAPD will continue to serve the Los Angeles community with respect, professionalism and dedication. Together, we are hopeful we can create a safer, more peaceful community. At the end of the day, all police officers strive to serve and protect the public with the ultimate goal of going home to their families and loved ones in one piece. We are proud of L.A. police officers for reminding us all that they are the best police force in the world.

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

TheRookie @ 12/15/2014 8:37 PM

Most of these protests have turned to become unlawful. Problem is no one from City Mayors, Council Members, County Managers, County Commissions on down have the spine to take legal action(s). They are all afraid of A.G. Holder, President Obama, & Al Sharpton, period. Sad days for America & L.E.

kevCopAz @ 12/15/2014 9:03 PM

Lets face it, if ANY Tea PArty, Anti-Abortion or any right wing conservative group blocked streets, tore up property, chanted "kill cops" or Kill anyone, the authorities would come down on them faster then we could say "double standard". Don't you agree? Perhaps we on the other side, should "protest" Holder's criminal actions (fast & Furious /Black Panther voting fraud /failure to investigate IRS or DHS etc etc) and block streets and sing "kill Attorney generals" see how long it takes to get booked on federal. State & local charges. Two faced bastards!

HRPufnstuf @ 12/16/2014 1:12 PM

"Fine line?" There's no fine line. Laws are clear, and when they break the law, they are in violation. Ask them to stop. Tell them to stop. Tell them if they don't stop, they will be arrested. Then arrest them.
Free speech is fine. Inciting to riot ("Burn this bitch down!) is not.

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