Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
First Amendment auditors provide opportunity for targeted police training

First Amendment auditors provide opportunity for targeted police training

  • Updated
  • 0

Among Americans’ most cherished freedoms are those guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We fully support the First Amendment. In fact, we live by it; it enables us to publish the newspaper every day.

We cannot say the same for self-styled First Amendment auditors.

Anyone who has spent time on the internet has likely encountered video clips posted by people who will enter government buildings or place themselves in situations where they’re likely to be confronted when they begin recording with video equipment or a camera phone. They’re usually polite but firm in the face of authority, refusing to identify themselves and invoking their right to operate a camera in whatever situation they’ve placed themselves. They’ve done their homework and are, more often than not, on firm legal ground.

However, the stunts aren’t really about the First Amendment. The goal, at least, is to record a confrontation that may make a video clip go viral on the internet. At best, law enforcement will get involved and the perpetrators will be detained or arrested. The auditors may then file a federal lawsuit against the local government and/or the officers involved with the hope of being offered a monetary settlement, as appears to be the impetus behind a federal suit against two Dothan police officers who encountered a self-styled auditor in a local government building.

Law enforcement officers have enough on their plates without worrying about being goaded into detaining someone whose primary goal is to sue for a questionable arrest. That makes for a good training opportunity for police agencies, which should provide rank-and-file officers with specific instruction in dealing with so-called First Amendment auditors and others simply looking for a “gotcha” payday.


Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

  • Updated

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden Administration’s vaccination and testing mandate for large employers, and state officials …

  • Updated

Alabama is in the midst of a coronavirus surge – again. This one may well be the worst yet, in terms of transmission. The most recent seven-da…

  • Updated

Alabamians should count their blessings with regard to the coronavirus and its relentless grip. While many Alabamians have chosen to go maskle…

It’s understandable if U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks wanted any publicity prior to the May 24 GOP primary to be about his political campaign, in which h…

About seven years ago, a 20-year-old college student, Hoda Muthana, left her home in the Birmingham area and traveled to the Middle East, wher…

  • Updated

A year ago, as 2020 and its nine months of unprecedented global health challenges drew to a close, we could not help but look forward with hop…

  • Updated

As Alabama lawmakers gather this week to start the 2022 regular session of the Alabama Legislature, among the priorities established by the Re…

  • Updated

State school officials postponed an update to the state’s social studies curriculum this fall following a mixed Fordham Institute review of st…

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert