ST. LOUIS – St. Louis police officers will be required each month to read and acknowledge an order reiterating the rights of journalists.
The move comes after editors from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch met last month with Mayor Lyda Krewson and interim police Chief Lawrence O'Toole to discuss officer-journalist relationships. One of the newspaper's reporters, Mike Faulk, was arrested in September while covering civil unrest downtown over a former officer's acquittal in a fatal shooting.
"The Post-Dispatch is encouraged that St. Louis city leaders have listened to our concerns about journalists being able to do their jobs amid an environment that protects them from unwarranted arrests and physical abuse," Post-Dispatch Editor Gilbert Bailon said. "We are hopeful this new approach will lead to a safe environment for all journalists to provide essential news coverage for the public."
Police commanders can use their discretion to grant journalists select privileges at a scene as long as the officers' duties and the safety of other members of the public are not compromised, the Post-Dispatch reported.
The police order states that journalists must be provided at least the same access others are given.
O'Toole said the police department also will increase officer training in dealing with journalists and send all officers an advisory asking them to allow journalists to do their jobs.
"If you look at the larger picture, we deal with the media on a daily basis. We have crime scenes every day and have for years. Our interactions are constant. I think this will help," O'Toole said. "If there's a way we can improve, we want to improve."
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com