ACLU of Florida Calls on Sheriff to Safeguard First Amendment Rights of Brevard Residents
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MELBOURNE, FL — In a memorandum sent today to Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s Brevard Chapter called for additional training and reforms to prevent a recurrence of political surveillance practices that took place from 2002 to 2005.
The ACLU sent the memo after reviewing changes that Sheriff Parker made to criminal intelligence guidelines outlined in General Order 500.69, which was enacted by his predecessor Phil Williams. In its memo to Sheriff Parker, the ACLU urged that additional revisions to the order are needed.
“Law enforcement has two distinct and important functions: to protect the safety of the people of Brevard County and to safeguard their constitutional rights,” said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard L. Simon, who helped draft the ACLU analysis of Parker’s revised policies. “The second function is entirely absent from the amended General Order 500.69.”
The ACLU said that it has obtained records that clearly show that policies regarding when surveillance should occur were not being followed.
“Past practices were to monitor the activities of groups and individuals who were critical of government policy, absent any threat to the community,” said Kevin Aplin, Vice President of the ACLU of Brevard.
In the memorandum, the ACLU encourages Sheriff Parker to implement standards for criminal intelligence gathering by re-defining the term “criminal intelligence,” improving training for officers engaged in intelligence gathering and allowing on-going reviews of the procedures to ensure that only criminal intelligence, and not political associational activities, are being collected.
“We urge that ? the Brevard Sheriff’s Department engage in a vigorous program of training of the members of the Investigative Support Unit regarding their duty to gather criminal intelligence, especially relating to homeland security, in order to protect the safety of the public and to safeguard the constitutional rights of the residents of Brevard County,” the ACLU letter said.
Local police were recently criticized for keeping “spy files” on political protesters. In March, the ACLU and six protesters targeted as “persons of interest” by police filed public records requests demanding that the Melbourne Police Department and the Brevard County Sheriff Office turn over surveillance files kept on demonstrators who attended a counterinaugural protest earlier this year.
More information on the Florida “spy files” requests is online at /node/11606.
The ACLU memo sent today is online at http://www.aclufl.org/issues/free_speech/
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