Brevard Sheriff's Office Revamps Surveillance Policies Following ACLU Recommendations

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
October 19, 2005 12:00 am

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MELBOURNE, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Brevard Chapter announced today that, based on ACLU recommendations, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office has revised its police surveillance policies to ban officers from monitoring constitutionally protected First Amendment activities, including the right to peacefully protest government policies.

Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker, the county’s top law enforcement official, has also agreed to develop a training program for deputies in conjunction with the ACLU to explain and implement the new policy, said the ACLU.

“Hopefully this will prevent a recurrence of the types of political surveillance practices that we’ve seen in the past where Brevard County officers spent taxpayer dollars monitoring the activities of peace activists who did nothing more than criticize government officials,” said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon, who will be participating in the officer training program.

In June, the ACLU called on Sheriff Parker to revamp portions of the criminal intelligence guidelines outlined in Brevard Sheriff General Order 500.69, which were enacted by Parker’s predecessor, Phil Williams. The ACLU recommended implementing standards for criminal intelligence gathering to ensure that only criminal intelligence information – and not political associational information – is collected.

Some of the ACLU recommendations that were adopted by Sheriff Parker include:

  • Events may only be monitored if there is an “identified credible potential threat for violence.”
  • If members of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office respond to a protest after identifying a potential threat of violence, and no illegal activity occurs, then no identifiable information relating to the participants in the protest activity will be noted in any police reports.
  • Officers will avoid indiscriminate collection of information on protesters regardless of their affiliations, and will require authorization from senior command staff prior to any monitoring.

“After a welcomed and positive dialogue with the sheriff, we now have a policy that should protect the rights of all Brevard residents to peaceably assemble without fear that their activities will land them with a police file,” said ACLU Brevard Chapter President Glenn Pinfield. “We look forward to working with the sheriff’s office on a training program to ensure that deputies perform their law enforcement duties consistent with the new policy.”

The new guidelines stem from an investigation that began after officers photographed and gathered information on a group of people participating in a counter-inaugural demonstration at the Melbourne City Hall in January 2005.

The ACLU and the demonstrators filed a series of public records requests after the incident, which resulted in the release of more than 600 pages of documents showing a pattern since 9/11 of police surveillance of Brevard residents who engage in lawful First Amendment activity. The ACLU has referred to the documents as “spy files.”

The newly amended policy is available at:

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