Term Paper: Democratic-Republican National Convention (DRNC)

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Democratic-Republican National Convention

DRNC Case Study: Legal Issues and Implications

A lot of planning goes into the security behind a convention. It is necessary for the Security Sub-Committee to figure out their potential methods for crowd control and what types of protest activities should be permitted in order to allow American citizens to enjoy their First Amendment rights, without endangering public safety. As such, the following recommendations illustrate that the LRAD should not be used in this context, while the Amnesty International protest be permitted, although the Bayside protest permit be rejected.

A Long-Range Acoustic Device, also known as an LRAD, is a modern nonlethal weapon. According to the research, "the LRAD's intended use is to deliver audible warning messages over long ranges and act as a hailing device" (McKechnie, 2011, p 181). The device is extremely powerful an effective. It is intended to subdue individuals and crowds in potentially dangerous situations, but rarely has been used on the American public in protest situations. Still, the Security Sub-Committee is thinking about using LRAD devices, although there was insufficient time to test them before the Convention. The Sub-Committee concluded that the value of the LRAD as a crowd control device outweighed any risk of harm caused by their use.

If the decision is made to purchase them after relying solely on the manufacturer's claims and instructions as to their use, there could be a host of legal issues if someone is injured during the use of the LRAD on the crowd. Most importantly, the act of using the LRAD may be a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Essentially, "Fourth Amendment jurisprudence contemplates the right to be free from unreasonable, forcible seizure that restrains a citizen's liberty" (McKechnie, 2011, p 142). The Amendment protects citizens against unreasonable treatment by police or other law enforcement agencies. In various situations, the Courts have had to deal with claims of Fourth Amendment violations because of use of LRAD and similar nonlethal weapon devices meant to subdue crowds. From this experience, "the Supreme Court has articulated a test for analyzing Fourth Amendment excessive-force claims that focuses solely on the reasonableness of the force used by a police officer when detaining a suspect" (McKechnie, 2011, p 140). Because the LRAD device has been known to cause serious and sometimes permanent injuries, it can be assumed that its use may violate the Fourth Amendment rights of protesters according to recent Court precedents. It is also true that "some courts require arrestees to also establish that they suffered an injury as a result of the Fourth Amendment violation" (McKechnie, 2011, p 140). In this case, the use of the LRAD would only be seen as a violation if it caused a serious injury to a protester or bystander.

Research on the use of the LRAD does, however, show that this is clearly possible. The research suggests that "the device would disrupt the balance system of the inner ear, causing the disorientation," but possibly also causing permanent damage to the inner ear and other hearing systems within the ear (McKechnie, 2011, p 181). As such, this would clearly be enough grounds for an injured person to claim that law enforcement's use of the device violated their Fourth Amendment rights.

In fact, the very first time the LRAD was used in a domestic context on American civilians was at the G-20 protest in Pittsburgh in 2009. In that situation, a bystander, Karen Piper was injured and suffered permanent hearing loss directly because of the use of the device. This particular case illustrates that "the LRAD cannot be controlled to prevent serious harm to innocent bystanders" (ACLU, 2011). Its range can not be altered to a more precise consistency that would avoid potentially harming innocent bystanders in the area. Moreover, it may even also cause permanent damage to protestors, who can also claim that it was a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. Thus, "because of the risk of permanent hearing damage the acoustic nonlethal weapons pose in the limited potential for incapacitation, their widespread development and development by domestic Police Department seems unlikely" (McKechnie, 2011, p 182). As most police agencies have opted not to use LRAD devices on American citizens, neither should the Sub-Committee.

There are also a number of personal liability issues that may arise. First, there is the potential liability of the person using the device. It was made clear that the most damage is done when the device is on the highest setting. As such, if the person using the device was to put it on that setting, he or she would be legally responsible for some of the damage caused, especially if that individual was instructed to use a different or lower setting. This would potentially make them liable for any injuries or hearing loss experienced by the crowd of protesters. Yet, more concerning is the potential liability of Chairperson Selerno. She is at the head of the Security Task Force, and as such, her decisions are what impact the strategies used by the team that day. Because of her seniority, she would have the greatest liability issues if the team does decide to use the LRAD on the crowd. She would be the person knowingly making the decision to use a device that has not been properly tested for protest situations and with the knowledge that it may actually cause bodily harm. As such, her premeditation in the matter would cause her to have the highest level of liability in the situation. In order to reduce her liability, and that of her team, Selerno would have to vocally announce the team's intention to use the LRAD, so that anyone not involved or unwilling to put themselves in danger could have sufficient time to get out of the area (ACLU, 2011).

With all said and done, it would be my personal recommendation not to use the LRAD. It is not fully understood in a protest situation, and it may even impact passersby, who have nothing to do with the protests at all. The level of injury which could be sustained could be left open for an argument that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, making it a potential cause of lawsuits. As such, it would be highly recommended not to use the LRAD in this particular situation.

Secondly, there is the additional situation where legal claims might be triggered if the Sub-Committee decides to deny permission to Amnesty International to stage a protest at the Torch of Friendship which has been identified as the second First Amendment Zone. First Amendment Zones are intended to allow protesting in a controlled circumstance. According to the research, they're often used as a way to allow citizens their First Amendment right to protest, but in a more controllable area, which is safer for big political Conventions like the one being discussed here (Knoxville News-Sentinel, 2004). It is a way to help law enforcement keep crowds under control, while still allowing citizens to enjoy their freedom of speech.

Another way of doing this is through exercising permits that would allow for certain protests, but not others. Essentially, the "First Amendment permits the government to impose a permit requirement for those wishing to engage in expressive activity on public property, such as streets, sidewalks, and parks" (Schofield, 1994). All protests are required to have the appropriate permits to ensure they are following all the necessary guidelines. As such, law enforcement has the right to deny protests if it is not in the favor of public safety. However, the use of permits "cannot be used to impose even a place restriction on a speaker's use of a public forum on the basis of what the speaker will say, unless there is a compelling interest for doing so, and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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