Department of Justice Releases Recommendations for Law Enforcement Response to Mass Protests and Protecting First Amendment Rights

For Immediate Release
COPS Office Public Affairs
(202) 514-9079


WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) today announced the release of 21st Century Protest Response: Promoting Democracy and Advancing Community and Officer Safety, which provides recommendations for state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies responding to mass demonstrations.

Law enforcement agencies play a critical role in preserving people’s fundamental right to peaceably assemble and in facilitating demonstrators’ safety and security as they exercise their First Amendment rights. At the same time, law enforcement must also identify when interventions are necessary in order to maintain safety and public order. Officials must protect the rights of citizens to protest, while simultaneously preserving officer and community safety and safeguarding property. This project aims to address these challenges and provide recommendations for law enforcement agencies responding to mass demonstrations.

“Safeguarding the right to peaceably protest while maintaining public safety can be an extremely delicate balancing act for law enforcement, but is nonetheless an essential one to ensure that the basic tenets of our democracy are upheld,” said Robert Chapman, Acting Director of the COPS Office. “The guidance released today will assist law enforcement agencies with protecting constitutional rights while prioritizing community and officer safety.”

The guide includes 102 recommendations centered around seven topics: Situational Awareness—Understanding the Protest Operating Environment; Community Relationship Building and Involvement; Planning and Training; Response Strategies and Tactics; Communication; Officer Safety and Wellness; and After-Action Review / Follow-up. The recommendations are the result of extensive listening sessions with a range of stakeholder groups, including the National Policing Institute and the Police Executive Research Forum, seven roundtable listening sessions, and two recommendation review workshops. Attendees were invited from a range of stakeholder groups including law enforcement; national civil rights organizations; community organizations and groups; academia; local, state, and Federal government; Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) organizations; and public information offices.

The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. The only Department of Justice agency with policing in its name, the COPS Office was established in 1994 and has been the cornerstone of the nation’s crime fighting strategy with grants, a variety of knowledge resource products, and training and technical assistance. Through the years, the COPS Office has become the go-to agency for law enforcement agencies across the country and continues to listen to the field and provide the resources that are needed to reduce crime and build trust between law enforcement and the communities served. The COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 134,000 officers.