MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - New documents obtained by the Local I-Team strongly detail information Memphis Police collected while surveilling peaceful demonstrations and other admitted protected First Amendment activity.
Bruce Kramer, the lawyer who sued the City of Memphis in 1976 and again just a few weeks ago spoke exclusively to the Local I-Team.
Emails between Memphis Police and other law enforcement agencies show they monitored and collected information on peaceful demonstrations even while they "recoginz[ed] some of the information describes first amendment protected activities."
"That email is in admission that they knew what they were doing that's wrong and they continue to do it," said Bruce Kramer, a litigation attorney who is suing the City of Memphis over the city hall A-list. The lawsuit claims unlawful police monitoring and gathering of information.
Also among the documents uncovered is a Memphis Police Powerpoint presentation reflecting "continued monitoring of intel for Darrius Stewart year anniversary," last July.
Kramer successfully sued the city of Memphis 40 years ago. The lawsuit resulted in a court order generally prohibiting Memphis Police from monitoring and compiling information on individuals in peaceful situation unless there is an ongoing criminal investigation.
"The issue is the same now as it was in 1970s, except it's more egregious now. It's more outrageous now because the city has been on notice of its activity and that that activity violates the constitution," Kramer said.
University of Memphis constitutional law professor and associate dean Steve Mulroy agrees.
"If there's ever going to be documentation of political intelligence gathering which is unlawful under the consent decree it would be here," Mulroy said.
Mulroy went on to say, "this is precisely the type of monitoring intelligence gathering at that consent decree forbids."
"This is not a new thing for the City of Memphis. They've got a history of blatant violation of people’s constitutional rights," Kramer said.
The documents suggest that violence against police across the United States warranted surveillance. Mulroy said continued monitoring after verification the protests were peaceful violates the court order.
The City of Memphis says it cannot comment on our request for a response due to pending litigation. MPD did not respond to the Local I-Team's request for a comment.
Local 24 obtained the documents discussed in this story from Matt Winter, a political science graduate student at The American University in Washington, D.C. Winters received them through an open records request.