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Lawsuit challenges city's gag order on police officers

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         RHODE ISLAND         Secret Courts         Nov 27, 2000    

Lawsuit challenges city’s gag order on police officers

  • The American Civil Liberties Union objects to the policy that requires officers to obtain permission from the chief prior to speaking publicly.

The Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU filed a lawsuit on Nov. 14 claiming that Providence’s policy preventing the police from speaking to the media violates the officers’ First Amendment rights.

The policy bars officers from speaking to the media unless they are first granted permission from the police chief. Sgt. Rhonda Kessler received a one-day suspension without pay for violating the policy in 1999. The ACLU filed suit on Kessler’s behalf seeking damages for her and also requesting that the court strike down the policy.

The lawsuit contends that there is an important public interest in allowing police officers to speak to the media regarding public issues. The suit also argues that the application of the policy is arbitrary because the police chief has “unlimited discretion” to grant or deny permission to speak to the media.

The ACLU won a similar suit against the Providence Fire Department two years ago.

(Kessler v. City of Providence; attorney for Kessler, John Dineen) AG

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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