Federal judge rules police violated 'consent decree' by spying on political protesters

The lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee against the Memphis Police Department is now over.

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A federal judge ruled that by spying on political protesters through social media and other means, MPD violated an “ACLU-Tenn. consent decree.”

The ruling said officers violated that decree when they spied on protesters and kept a list of people to monitor.

According to the new ruling, MPD must now define political intelligence, retrain officers and create clear guidelines for social media searches.

Officers had set up fake social media accounts to keep tabs on certain protesters.

The city of Memphis issued a statement responding to the new ruling:

Prior to the bench trial, the City of Memphis voluntarily took steps to make sure the Memphis Police Department (MPD) is following the 40-year-old consent decree. MPD now has a strict protocol for initiating an investigation that would require an officer to monitor social media platforms—and did so, well before this ruling. The Court believes that we can do better, and we agree.

The Court noted that the violation of the consent decree was not intentional but stems from a "shared misunderstanding rather than political favoritism." It also points out that officers have demonstrated their dedication to protecting First Amendment rights.

While our police department continues nationally accepted best practices in policing to ensure public safety, we have no objection to working with the ACLU of West Tennessee Inc. on choosing a Court ordered monitor to ensure MPD remains in compliance with the consent decree providing safety for our citizen and protecting their privacy.

There has not been a response from MPD yet on Friday’s ruling.

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