Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

To Settle Reporters' Lawsuit over Alleged Police Abuses, St. Louis County Will Train Staff on New Policies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

To Settle Reporters' Lawsuit over Alleged Police Abuses, St. Louis County Will Train Staff on New Policies

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * St. Louis County has agreed to pay $75,000 and have staff undergo mandatory training to settle a lawsuit filed by four journalists who alleged police abuses during the 2014 Ferguson protests.

Attorneys for both sides announced the settlement last week with a joint statement but said that the documents were confidential.

Under Missouri law, public bodies can enter into confidential settlements but must yield to open records laws. The county provided a copy of the documents to the Post-Dispatch Monday afternoon.

In an emailed response after the settlement was released, Ryan Devereaux, a reporter with the Intercept/First Look Media, wrote that the journalists "pursued the lawsuit in hopes of improving interactions between the police and the press. We believe it is crucial to ensure that reporters in the field are able to do their jobs including and especially in situations such as the protests in Ferguson and we are hopeful that these changes will mark a step in that direction."

The original lawsuit, filed in federal court in St. Louis in March 2015, claimed that the journalists were falsely arrested, held without probable cause and subjected to false imprisonment and battery.

In the settlement, St. Louis County and Police Chief Jon Belmar dispute those claims and do not admit any fault.

The settlement does say that within 45 days of the settlement's effective date, police will adopt new general orders covering media access and the recording of police activity, and provide mandatory training on the policies.

A policy governing recording of police activity is new, a spokesman said Monday. The "public information and news policy" contains significant additions or revisions.

The news media policy says that the police are committed to "working cooperatively with the media to keep the public informed" and will cooperate by "not interfering or allowing others to interfere with media personnel acting in their news gathering capacity. …

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