Police cars block a roadway in Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford Police Department says it will arrest people for making alleged threats — even when it knows they weren’t true threats


Case Overview

On February 5, 2023, Hartford Police arrested a University of Hartford student for making allegedly threatening posts on the social media app Yik Yak. Police did not find any weapons on campus, and the student told police he made the posts as a joke. After the arrest, the police department concluded the alleged threats were not imminent and involved a “joking nature.” Nevertheless, the department stated it would arrest anyone who used language that could be perceived as threatening, regardless of intent or context. In a March 2 letter to the police department, FIRE explained that while the First Amendment doesn’t protect true threats, it does protect jokes, hyperbole, and other statements that don’t seriously communicate an intent to commit violence. On April 4, the police department responded that its officers are trained on constitutional law and act in accordance with that training. FIRE filed a public records request for the training.