Testimony ends in ACLU vs. city of Memphis trial

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A legal battle between the city and the ACLU of Tennessee is now in the hands of a federal judge.

The issue stems from Memphis Police and their use of social media to track activists and protests in recent years.

In once case, creating a fake Facebook account under the name “Bob Smith.”

“This is not the type of policing we want in the United States. We want this type of policing to stop,” Thomas Castelli, attorney for the ACLU of Tennessee, said.

The ACLU says the city violated a 1978 consent decree, barring police from spying on political activists.

The judge says political intelligence was gathered but hasn’t decided if the practice infringed on peoples right to free speech.

“You should be able to choose to exercise that without worrying about any retaliation or retribution,”

The city says police were trying to keep up the public safety, calling the decree “outdated.”

“The consent decree is over 40 years old. It predates the internet, digital camera any type of technology that is standard technology for law enforcement today,” city attorney Bruce McMullen said.

As for the Facebook account, “That account is nothing more than modern day undercover work. There’s nothing that we do today that 155 other jurisdictions do not do in law enforcement.”

A ruling is expected late next month.

Separately, the city is also trying to get that decree modified or dissolved entirely.

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