Federally-appointed court monitor discusses MPD’s progress since social media spying ruling

MPD makes progress in social media spying court order

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Ten months ago, a federal judge ruled that Memphis police illegally spied on political activists.

On Tuesday, the team whose job is to make sure that doesn’t happen again told the court there has been progress.

But activists like Al Lewis still have their doubts.

"I think the court is doing the right thing, but justice moves very slowly sometimes too slowly," said Lewis.

Monitoring MPD for illegal surveillance

Court monitor Ed Stanton, a former U.S. attorney, says the Memphis Police Department has turned over thousands of pages of documents, including 2,500 emails, so his team can make sure the department is complying with a court order and consent decree, which says the city won't spy on political activists.

Stanton says MPD has also agreed to the vast majority of his team's recommendations and has been following the court's order that directs police to get permission from the court monitor before moving forward with "discreet" investigations that may involve First Amendment issues.

While even the judge characterized all of this as “good progress,” activists remain convinced MPD is still up to its old ways.

"There seems to be a tactic by the city to only submit to the lowest form of accountability," said activist Earle Fisher. "There's a lot of focus being placed on social media infractions, but I think there are broader matters of injustice."

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Hunter Demster is one of a handful of community activists to meet with Stanton.

Demster said he is still very concerned about MPD's behavior and wants more assurances from the court monitor team.

"I want assurances that they're being proactive in regard to searching out different ways they might be violating the consent decree and violating our civil rights," said Demster.

Stanton says some of the concerns activists brought up appear to be beyond the scope of his team's mandate.

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After last month's public forum, Stanton says he also plans to implement suggestions that community members made to make future forums more accommodating.

The next court hearing is set for Nov. 21st.

Stanton encourages anyone who wants to learn more about the work his team is doing, to visit the court monitor’s website at https://www.memphispdmonitor.com/.

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