Federal judge rules MPD must revise policy on political intelligence

Federal judge rules MPD must revise policy on political intelligence
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A federal judge has ruled the Memphis Police Department violated an ACLU consent decree from the 1970s by spying on protesters.

City of Memphis and the American Civil Liberties Union faced off in federal court back in August during a bench trial.

Sergeant Tim Reynolds of the Memphis Police Department’s Office of Homeland Security confirmed in court Saturday that he ran a Facebook profile under the name Bob Smith with more than 200 friends.

Many of those friends are well known community activists.

One comment written by Bob Smith used the phrase "I as a man of color" even though Tim Reynolds is white.

Memphis Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen said, “that account is nothing more than modern day undercover work monitoring.”

The ruling comes after the fake Facebook profile and Memphis Police releasing results of this surveillance to outside groups like FedEx and St. Jude.

Officers also recorded identities of protesters at events, that MPD must be sanctioned.

Both sides responded to the ruling.

The City of Memphis said, "The court believes that we can do better, and we agree."

ACLU Legal Director Thomas Castelli said, “This ruling is a tremendous victory for free speech in Memphis and nationwide.”

The court has imposed sanctions requiring MPD to revise their policy on political intelligence, train officers and establish written guidelines for the use of social media searches.

An independent monitor will also be appointed to supervise the implementation of the sanctions.

City of Memphis responded to the ruling with this statement:

“We have no objection to working with the ACLU on choosing a Court ordered monitor to ensure MPD remains in compliance with the consent decree.”

The ruling can be viewed at this link.

Saturday night Police Director Mike Rallings released a statement.

It read, "The Memphis Police Department has been proactive in our approach by putting methods in place, prior to the ruling, to ensure that we stay within the limits of the decree. We look forward to working with the court to ensure compliance."

The judge said actions by MPD did not discriminate against any points of view and that officers have shown dedication to protecting 1st amendment rights.

In fact, the Judge said in his ruling that this case creates an opportunity for Memphis Police to be on the forefront of protecting privacy in expanding techniques of electronic surveillance.

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