The team appointed to monitor the Memphis Police Department’s (MPD) compliance to a federal judge’s ruling on police surveillance wants to hear from the community at a public forum this Thursday.
After the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee won a lawsuit against the city on behalf of Memphis activists last year, U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla appointed former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton of the Butler Snow Law Firm to lead the independent group tasked with monitoring MPD’s progress and adherence to the court’s orders.
The question at hand during the August trial: Did MPD violate the 1978 Kendrick Consent Decree which prohibits political surveillance and interference of an individual’s First Amendment rights? McCalla ruled that MPD did violate that decree by actively pursuing covert surveillance of four local activists.
The city violated several areas of the consent agreement, McCalla ruled, including: intercepting phone calls and electronic communications, using a fake Facebook profile of "Bob Smith" to learn of activists' activities, and failing to properly inform officers of the parameters of the 1978 ruling.
Now, in an effort to “encourage transparent dialogue,” the monitoring team will hold a series of community meetings to share updates on the group’s work and to allow the community to give feedback on the city’s efforts to comply with the 1978 consent decree.
Thursday’s meeting will take place at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Midtown from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask the team questions and learn more about MPD’s progress with compliance. Representatives of the ACLU will also be at the meeting to answer questions.
A second public forum is tentatively slated for the fall. The monitoring team also launched a website this month to keep the public informed on the group's efforts.
Apart from appointing the monitoring team, McCalla also ordered MPD to revise its policy on political surveillance, train officers on the decree, establish a process for criminal investigations that may result in political intelligence, establish written guidelines for using social media searches, maintain a list of those searches, and submit that list to the court four times a year.
On August 27th, the monitoring team will return to McCalla’s courtroom to give a 90-day progress report. At an April hearing, McCalla said he would like to have a draft of MPD’s revised information-gathering policy by the August court date.