Monitoring team gives progress report on Memphis Police Dept.

(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)(WMC Action News 5)
Updated: Apr. 23, 2019 at 6:01 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - There’s been an update on overhauls to Memphis police policies and procedures.

Last year, a federal judge tapped former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton as an independent monitor after ruling the city violated a 1978 consent decree that bans the gathering of political intelligence.

The monitoring team is moving forward with recommendations for the city to ensure it is in compliance with the decree, and at least for the foreseeable future, it will come with a cost.

Still, some activists said Tuesday they were not happy with what they heard in court.

“One of the things that concerned me is two ex-police officers are part of the team,” said activist Hunter Demster.

The monitoring team put into motion by federal Judge Jon McCalla gave a progress report Tuesday morning in a roughly two-hour court hearing.

Led by former U.S. attorney Ed Stanton, the team of experts includes former federal prosecutor Jim Letten of New Orleans; Rachel Levinson-Waldman, a lawyer who focuses on policing and technology; and Theron Bowman, a former Texas police chief and public safety specialist.

The panel is in the middle of a comprehensive review of MPD alongside the city and ACLU with respect to the case.

“Best practices taught within the country could not really fit with this consent decree,” said city attorney Bruce McMullen.

MPD is barred from engaging in political intelligence by a 1978 consent decree. In a trial last year,

McCalla found the city violated the decree by searching a social media collator for terms like “Black Lives Matter,” monitoring Twitter feeds of journalists, setting up a fake Facebook account named “Bob Smith,” and circulating joint intelligence briefings to groups outside Memphis police.

Tuesday in court, multiple members of the monitoring team praised the openness of the city and MPD in complying with requests thus far.

“I don't think we're here about cosmetic professionalism. we're here about structural and institutional changes,” said activist Earle Fisher.

But community organizers say there’s still much more work to be done. In the next 90 days the judge expects the team to make significant progress on developing a political intelligence training plan for all members of the department, including an investigation of on-boarding practices.

The team is also expected to submit answers to nine hypothetical scenarios and formalize an approval process for the chain of command when an investigation requires political intelligence.

Attorneys for the city have previously indicated the decree is outdated and needs to be changed because it isn’t compatible with modern day technology.

It's expected in the coming weeks the monitoring team will set up a website where the public can view their activities.

The judge also asked all parties to consider public meetings.

As for the cost, city officials don’t have a figure right now, but a document shows members of the team bill at $200-$350 an hour...

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