We wrote about Authorization of Agency (AoA) last year, providing source data, collations and some analysis of almost 1,700 Authorization of Agency reports, obtained by public records request from Memphis Police Department (Est 1827).
We recently received another 473 AoA forms covering July 2018 to July 2019. We collated the data in a spreadsheet, which is available on Google Docs, or downloadable as Open Office or MS Excel formats. Each row of these files contain a link to a .PDF document containing a scanned copy of the original AoA and the page number to look in this .PDF. The entire corpus may be downloaded here.
These data are provided for free under the GNU open source agreement. Please let us know of any errors or bad links.
What is AoA?
Authorization of Agency is an off-the-books system carried in 3-ring binders in the cruisers attached to a given ward, as copies of the original form. A ward is a subdivision of an MPD precinct. It violates Tennessee trespass law, has no due process, entraps children as young as eleven, and is unsupported by MPD’s policy and procedures manual, the MPD Academy curriculum or the official computer systems at MPD.
Because the process is off the books, there are no systemic checks for typos, accuracy, completeness or readability. All records are maintained in the original, handwritten state as photocopies or faxes.
We have found a mention of AoA as early as 2007. Our original AoA report traces rapid increases in the use of AoA from around 2011, the start of Amy Weirich’s tenure at the DA’s office. The use of AoA reached a peak of almost 600 in 2017 and has remained high since. The rise, from just a few in 2011 to the 2017 high suggests that a marketing campaign, spearheaded by the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission and the DA’s office, was in place throughout Weirich’s time as prosecutor.
AoA as political weapon.
AoA, as an off-the-books system of sanctions, was used for years as a method of rousting “undesirables” from business premises. As such, the poor and disenfranchised victims had little recourse.
MPD started using AoA as a political weapon when two Greensward protesters were secretly placed on an AoA by the Zoo in summer of 2016.
Then, following a “die-in” protest at the Mayor’s house, 43 politically active individuals were placed on an AoA, for an event which had at most a dozen attendees. This was the basis of the City blacklist and subsequent Federal case.
Later, in 2017, an additional AoA at the Zoo listed two individuals and resulted in a confrontation with police, but no arrests. Neither of the two Zoo AoAs were notified to the listed individuals, in violation of the procedure specified on the AoA form. In addition, a forgery was committed as proven by a form which had a second subject added over the same signature. This addition of subjects happened in several AoAs in the 2018 corpus.
In 2019, an animal welfare activist, Dan Rosson, was placed on an AoA after incurring the wrath of City COO, Doug McGowan and officials at the Animal Shelter.
Later, in the summer of 2019, industrial activist Rodney Fisher, was functionally fired from his contract logistics job by an MPD officer sent to his house. Fisher captured video of the event, implicating a senior MPD officer in the process.
With the addition of two new politically-motivated AoAs in 2019, a clear pattern of the abuse of this off-the-books system as reprisals for political actions emerges.
First look at the AoAs.
MPD have started writing a new version of the AoA form, still titled AA0306, but containing much more data and appearing to be the result of a booking-style process, with fingerprints and photographs. We saw one outlier in April and several starting in June 2019.
As you can see from the sample pictured, which is redacted, the new form records police report and booking numbers, drivers license, address, date of birth. Before, it was just name and physical characteristics.
This form has the appearance of something that was produced by a booking process. The legality of police fingerprinting and photographing a person who is not being booked for a crime is questionable, and holding sensitive information in a file which is public record may also be a HIPPA issue.
We redacted personally identifying information for this illustration, although that information is in the database as released by MPD as public records.
MPD categorizes everyone by race. Only eleven AoAs, less than three percent of the total, did not track the subject by race.
So we went ahead and graphed it. 83% of respondents were African American, two percent fewer than the 2018 report.
Whites represented 14% of the total, up two percent from last time.
There were a total of 12 Asian, LatinX and Other individuals.
In view of the over-representation of African Americans in the AoAs, this may provide evidence of MPD’s racial profiling.
We noticed an individual as young as eleven years of age on an AoA in the 2018 report, so this time we collected age, where it was given in the AoA. This time, the youngest were two individuals aged 13, two more aged 14, eleven aged 15, fourteen aged 16 and nineteen aged 17. These 48 individuals were too young to be charged with a crime, and a quasi criminal process like AoA may not be appropriate for juveniles.
Age was not given in 23 cases. The oldest was one individual aged 78, there were five people over seventy and seventeen in their sixties.
AoAs by Officer
Some were curious about the distribution of AoAs by officer. We found that the 473 AoAs were distributed by 220 officers, including three postal police, so a little more than 10% of cops use AoAs. Seventeen AoAs had no police signature, in violation of the procedure outlined on the form itself.
The 49 most prolific officers wrote three or more AoAs for a total of 231, roughly half the total number. Officer M. Lester wrote eleven, followed by J Holmes with ten, and the leading 17 cops with six or more AoAs wrote a total of 123, more than a quarter of the total.
AoAs as reprisal, harassment or punishment
We wrote in 2018 how the Mayor placed 43 individuals on an AoA for his property in retaliation for a “die-in” protest in which no more than a dozen people participated. Lieut Bonner of the City Hall detail added a stricture that the “A-list” people were to be escorted while in City Hall. The rest is history.
We also documented the existence of two AoAs at the Zoo, with Maureen Spain and Fergus Nolan being banned from this public facility a couple of days after their May 2016 arrest at the zoo, against whom no crime was committed. An additional AoA was issued for Fergus Nolan and Hunter Demster at the Zoo in 2017 on another occasion where no crime was charged. On these two occasions, the police used the AoA as a political weapon on behalf of themselves or others. (Author’s note: I was on all three of the AoAs mentioned above. )
In our new dataset, we include two AoAs of which we had written before:
Dan Rosson was targeted by City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowan and other city and Memphis Animal Services officials after he blew the whistle on conditions at the Pound. His AoA is page 1 of this file. (PDF).
Rodney Fisher was discussing conditions for contract workers at a logistics warehouse when he was informed by a cop who came to his house that he was effectively fired via AoA. His is on page 3 of this file. (PDF). There is video of the event as captured by Mr. Fisher on his doorstep.
It seems that MPD has a pattern of harassing not only generally disadvantaged individuals with AoA, but there is also a pattern of AoA use by police as a reprisal for political action and views of which they disapprove, and this is tied in to the keeping of files and social media snooping on activists.
#: is an arbitrary number
Business: Name of the business
Street#, Street: as labeled
Business Catg: Type of business
Surname, First Name: as labeled
Race: As described by MPD
Date: Date of AoA as signed by police
Source file See Page: Clickable link to the .PDF scan of the AoA
# Pages: Number of AoA pages in the source file
Page: The page number of this AoA in the file
Note: There is additional information on the AoA. This and the following fields are newly added since the 2008 version of the spreadsheet
Count: it is always 1
Station: MPD station originating the AoA
Ward: A ward is a subdivision of a police precinct. We captured it when available
Officer: Name and IBM# of the cop who witnesses the AoA, when decipherable
Age: Age of the AoA recipient.