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 Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole states that that media must be provided, at a minimum, the same access given to others, but that scene commanders can use their discretion to grant journalists select privileges as long as the officers’ duties and the safety of the public won’t be compromised. Officers are expected to read and acknowledge their understanding of the order on a monthly basis, O’Toole said. The department also will send all officers an advisory asking them to allow journalists to do their jobs and will increase training in dealing with the media.
The move stems from an Oct. 26 meeting between Post-Dispatch editors, Mayor Lyda Krewson and O’Toole to discuss police treatment of reporters covering unrest in September after the acquittal of a former city officer in a fatal shooting. Post-Dispatch reporter Mike Faulk was arrested while on assignment at a protest downtown. Faulk was among 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 of 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.