Marvell Locke (59) died at the hands of Circle K store clerk Nicholas Vitatoe, on May 19th, 2020.
As reported by Action News 5 later in 2020, Marvell Locke is seen on security video as he approached a clerk at the Circle K located at 8971 US 64 on May 19th, around 1:30 AM. He asked the clerk, Nicholas Vitatoe, if he could clean the lot. Marvell Locke occasionally made a few bucks from local businesses doing odd jobs.
Mr Vitatoe tells Mr. Locke to leave, then calls the police and texts his manager. At some point, Mr Locke exits to the parking lot. Mr Vitatoe then says he will not wait for police and will take care of this himself. Mr Vitatoe exits the store and out of camera view. A shot is heard, and Mr. Vitatoe re-enters the store and places a black handgun on the counter.
Responding police found Mr Locke’s body DOA in the parking lot and arrested Nicholas Vitatoe, charging him initially with involuntary manslaughter. He was taken to 201 Poplar and immediately released on his own recognisance.
Mr Vitatoe was indicted on June 3, 2021 for second degree murder, and, on March 22, 2022, he entered a guilty plea to that charge. He has not yet been sentenced as of June 7 2022.
On September 3, 2020, the estate of Marvell Locke filed a wrongful death suit (PDF) against Nicholas Vitatoe, Circle K and others seeking damages. This case is still in progress, and attorney Howard Manis of the Cochran firm declined to comment on June 7 2022.
Authorization of Agency
The above is the affidavit of complaint filed against Vitatoe by MPD on May 19th 2020, showing the original involuntary manslaughter charge. The affidavit mentions that there was an Authorization of Agency (AoA) in force for Marvell Locke at the Circle K premises. The AoA was also mentioned in this News 3 article which was likely informed by the affidavit. In fact, there is no AoA filed against Marvell Locke for the Circle K.
Our AoA database.
We have created an Authorization of Agency database. This spreadsheet (XLSX) contains indexed AoAs from late 2016 to July 2019. This Zip file has the raw AoA data from July 2019 to February 2020, and this Zip file has the raw AoA data from February to August 2020, as received from MPD via FOIA. The AoA for Circle K mentioned in the Nicholas Vitatoe affidavit of complaint does not exist in the FOIA data.
Marvell Locke’s Only AoA
The above is Marvell’s only AoA in the database. It was created in March, 2019 for the Best Western Hotel in the same area as the Circle K and other businesses mentioned. The misspelling of Marvell’s given name as Marvel is common in the police and court documents.
Marvell Locke’s record.
.Police allege in sworn court affidavits and an arrest citation that Marvell Locke had AoAs at Kroger Gas, 9027 US 64, Kroger store at 9025 US 64 and Pizza Hut 8979 US 64. The only AoA on file is for the Best Western Hotel at 8635 US 64. Incidentally, the Pizza Hut is in the same block as the Circle K.
It is easy for police to commit this type of AoA fraud. When the DA’s office sends supporting documents to a Public Defender, they are reduced in size and presented four to a page. With the handwritten scrawl that AoAs are rendered with, it is impossible to make out the detail on an AoA. We have other examples of police substituting AoAs for defendants.
This can be a critical factor in obtaining a trespass conviction and getting longer sentences. For many, an AoA is an entry point to the criminal justice system.
Why did cops target Locke?
While being arrested on 11/14/2019 police allege in yet another affidavit of complaint that Marvell Lock, from the back of Adam Durham’s cruiser, spat in the cop’s eye. Police have a HIV protocol when that happens.
This article, from Law Enforcement Today gives the police viewpoint. They list dozens of Marvell Locke’s infractions and seem to imply that Mr Locke is a career criminal and a fair target for summary execution. It is clear that the police had spoken with local business owners about Mr Locke, including a visit to the Circle K a few days previously. It is easy to think that Nicholas Vitatoe had imagined that the police would not care if he slaughtered Marvell Locke. The police undercharge and his release with no bond did show extreme leniency by the police, and if George Floyd had not been murdered that summer, Mr Vitatoe might be a free man today.
MPD AoA regulations/UPSSOP
We obtained MPD’s Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure via FOIA and analyzed those regulations in our blog.
AoA (the police version, there’s also a separate version of AoA at the DA’s office) purports to authorize police to arrest a specified person for trespass without the due process of the Tennessee trespass law, that requires a defendant to be informed he is trespassing and given an opportunity to depart. As such, it is a fast-track to a trespass conviction. Read more about AoA.
The master database is filed in each precinct in its original handwritten form. The procedure is that the property representative informs the subject that she is barred from the premises and will be arrested for trespass on sight. The complainant and the police go to the station where the cop signs to assert that the subject has been informed and that he is witnessing the complainant’s signature.
We audited over 2300 AoA forms and found that 93% of them were invalid because this procedure and other UPSSOP requirements were not followed.
We have seen where MPD substituted the single Best Western AoA against Marvell Locke in three other cases. We have seen other cases like this.
In our recent FOIAs, we found three AoAs on file at Appling station, the precinct covering Marvell Locke’s various police dramas. These AoAs were signed by police and the defendant was left blank. Presumably these were intended to be distributed to business owners, who could sign over the existing police witness’ signature. This would be a clear case of fraud. Incidentally, we have a proven case where this writer’s name was added to an AoA at the Zoo over a several months old police signature. The lack of a proper system, controls and auditing of the AoA apparatus and its previous secrecy makes it prime for abuse.
We have an eyewitness account from an employee at the now-closed Cordova Animal Clinic, formerly at Fischer Steele Rd in the Appling precinct. When the owner complained to the police about a person of concern (not Marvell Locke), a police came, signed an AoA form and told the veterinarian to hang it in the office. This was not a valid AoA because the offender was not notified, the vet did not come to the station, and our database shows that no AoA was filed for the clinic. It is possible that this deficient procedure was used for the missing Marvell Locke AoAs.
Marvell Locke police victim.
Marvell was a poor Black man who was, according to his attorney Howard Manis and his relatives, mentally ill. He had certainly been a problem for local police and business owners, and is easily cast in the role of usual suspect. Above all, he was the victim of evidence tampering by the police, in his previous prosecutions. He did time as a result of several November 2019 prosecutions. He was often a rambunctious presence in many local businesses.
Above all, the tragic case of Marvell Locke shows that the police are not equipped to deal with severely mentally ill people.
Recently we got documents from Memphis Police Department using “Authorization of Agency” as a search key, and we obtained an excerpt of MPD’s “Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure”. The extract was very helpful as it outlined the procedures for Authorization of Agency, which we wrote up in our blog.
Authorization of Agency (AoA) is a pair of processes at Memphis Police Department and the DA’s office, which are designed to circumvent provisions in the Tennessee criminal trespass law, TCA § 39-14-405. AoA is designed to enhance public safety by controlling unwanted citizens who access private business property.
We have written extensively about one AoA process, the MPD’s form AA 0306, which is summarized in the most recent blog. We provide links to our blogs and other documents at the end of this piece. We have not previously written about the second process, which is based on signage located mostly in apartment complexes, but we describe the second process here.
We provide the text of the FOIA we received from MPD below, with section headers inserted by us. It is the Uniform Patrol Station Standard Operating Procedure.
AoA UPSSOP Section 1: Definition of AoA
AoA UPSSOP Section 2: Advising the Target of AoA
AoA UPSSOP Section 3: LEO Witness and Complainant signature
AoA UPSSOP Section 4: Filing of AoA
AoA UPSSOP Section 5: AoA Verification for Arrest
AoA UPSSOP Section 6: Arrests and File maintenance
AoA UPSSOP Section 7: Appendices, omitted from FOIA.
About the AoA SOP.
We see numerous problems with the current implementation of AoA. As examples, section 1 confines AoA complainants to businesses only, and there were 112 AoAs (6.6%) for residence owners who were private individuals in our 2018 FOIA.
In section 2, the business owner must advise the AoA target, in the presence of an MPD witness, of the imposition of AoA. There is one alternative procedure provided involving the posting of a notarized affidavit. We received notification, in response to a FOIA request, that there are no such affidavits on file at MPD.
In Section 3, the business owner and the witnessing officer must sign and complete the AoA form at the local police station. The combination of sections 2 and 3 require one three-way meeting which must include the AoA target, which can be anywhere but is assumed to be at the alleged trespass location, and a second meeting and filing which must include the complainant and the original witnessing police officer, and must take place at the local MPD precinct.
“Sir, you will have to give the a verbal order to the individual to not be on the property in the presence of an officer. Then we can fill out the form. You have to have the name of the officer and his IBM number. Then the form is to be completed at the station. If the form is completed before that step it is not valid…”
Of the 45 cases we have sampled, this procedure was not followed in a single instance. We are following up on interviewing additional AoA targeted individuals.
Section 3 also lists a number of data points which must be on the AoA. The majority of the 2,200 AoAs we have seen do not have all these data points, or the officers IBM# as required in the Colonel’s email.
The SOP contains numerous other requirements which are not followed, among them the requirement for annual purging of year-old AoAs. When we obtained 1677 AoAs via FOIA in mid-2018 with readable dates, 358 of them (6.6%) were dated 2016 or earlier and must have been more than a year old, and the 584 FOIAs for 2017 looked like the entire year’s worth of FOIAs.
We also have an email interchange between an attorney for an AoA targetted individual, from February 2017, who had to escalate to Bruce McMullen, City Attorney and City PR Ursula Madden in order to get an erroneous AoA removed. The procedure in the UPSSOP for correcting erroneous AoAs was apparently not applied or did not work, possibly because no-one was aware the procedure existed. This AoA target had to pay an attorney for redress, something not available to everyone.
In summary, it looks like the majority of AoAs on file are invalid because of defective procedures, and we would not be surprised if every AoA on file is defective in some way.
The other type of Authorization of Agency
The MPD AoA form AA0306 is clearly labeled Authorization of Agency and this matches the verbiage in the UPSSOP. The DA’s office frequently refers to another AoA mechanism. This is manifested in the form of signs frequently posted in apartment complexes, which state that the property is posted against trespass by anyone who is not a tenant or their guest. Here’s a Youtube video of Amy Weirich (2:46 minutes) describing these signs as AoA and conflating with the AA0306 forms.
These signs purport to allow the police to arrest an alleged offender without the notice required in the Tennessee criminal trespass law, TCA § 39-14-405.
In order for a premises to be posted under TCA § 39-14-405, the property must be entered in the No Trespass Public Notice List at the Tennessee Secretary of State. We have viewed this page repeatedly between 2017 and the date of writing, 12/1/2019, and have never seen a Memphis address posted in this database. Therefore we assume that all these AoA no trespass signs contravene the State trespass law and are invalid.
We have not yet received data on the use of both flavors of AoA in actual trespass arrests, but we are told, anecdotally, that hundreds of such arrests have been seen, and will post that information when we receive it.
Why was AoA under the radar for ten years?
We could find no public mention of AoA between 2007, when a blogger mentioned it, to 2017 when our FOIA produced the City blacklist, including 43 people on AoAs. We believe, anecdotally, that hundreds of trespass arrests were made, using both forms of AoA.
Only a small population knew about AoA, the AoA complainants, people to whom AoA had been marketed as possible complainants, some of the AoA targets, some MPD police, of which less than 10% actually created AoA forms, prosecutors and public defenders.
When you have secret police processes, you get secret police.
Public Defenders and AoA.
There are about 45 politically targeted individuals, who generally had private attorneys when they interacted with the criminal justice system.
All other instances of arrest for trespass with either flavor of AoA that we know of went through the Public Defender’s office. Sadly, the combined actions of the DA’s office and MPD have severely hampered the PD’s ability to defend AoA arrests.
PD’s workflow for AoA arrests.
Bear with us as we outline the PD’s workflow. When a person is arrested for criminal trespass, they are brought to 201 Poplar or Jail East and booked. Some time afterwards, during bankers’ hours, the defendant will be arraigned. At that time, if the defendant does not have funds for a lawyer, a public defender is appointed. The PD receives the jacket, containing various documents, including an affidavit of complaint and an arrest ticket from MPD, a bond recommendation, criminal history and others.
At this point, the PD may see a small photograph of the AoA document on the affidavit of complaint, which is reproduced at quarter size and can’t be read. So the PD knows there’s an AoA or a posted location but can’t see details. In order to get the AoA form, the PD would have to walk the couple of blocks to MPD HQ at 170 N. Main, go through security and wait at the public records counter on the 7th floor. PDs, who often have up to thirty cases per day, are limited to three police records per day. Restrictions on the data practically available to PDs has been progressively tightened over the years, not least when the MPD records counter moved from 201 Poplar to North Main.
If the PD is to take 45 minutes from their busy schedule, they’ll probably wait until the end of the day and do all the day’s AoAs together. There is not enough time in the day to get MPD records for every case. In most cases, as the defendant probably needs to be released to get to work, cases are settled for time served awaiting trial before the end of the day. First time defendants often accept a misdemeanor record to get back to their daily schedule. This is a problem if they get arrested again, as the trespass offense is taken into account when bail, diversion and sentence recommendations are decided. This is a slippery slope into a possible criminal career. AoA is a gateway into mass incarceration for many.
Hopefully PDs can use some of the information here to question the imposition of AoA in more cases. In the meantime, considering the workload on PDs, it is not surprising that they did not investigate and publicize the nature of AoA while it was under the radar.
Our current interest in AoA stemmed from its use in the City blacklist and the information we developed required hundreds of hours of research. Without the publicity generated by the Blacklist and the ensuing ACLU court case, the public might still be in the dark about AoA.
AoA has been an almost secret police process at MPD and the DA’s office since at least 2007. It has the appearance of having been heavily marketed by various public safety interests in the interim, resulting in heavy usage.
The availability of this secret tool was apparently attractive to the City, MPD and the Zoo when they desired to punish and harass political activists, after which law enforcement lost the advantage of this secret police process.
We believe that the 2,200 AoA targets include about 45 political actors and over 2,100 regular folks, who generally have been unable to mount a criminal defense against the numerous irregularities we outline here.
We are appending a links section as a resource. Anybody who is on an AoA, who has been notified they are not allowed at a certain location, or who has been arrested for criminal trespass where “authorization of agency”, AoA, no trespass signage, or “being on a list” should contact us. We will share your information with some attorneys we are working with, but with otherwise keep your information completely confidential and protected. You can also use our confidential contact option if you have AoA information but wish to be anonymous.
Some of the information in the earlier blogs is inaccurate and was corrected in later blogs. E.g. I wrote that there was no MPD P&P for AoA in 2018, now we know from the current article that it is covered in UPSSOP.
According to the DA’s website, MGU was started in 2011 and absorbed the Crime Strategies Prosecution Unit (CSPU), “incorporating and expanding the work of the Organized Crime Unit, Project Safe Neighborhood/Gundone, GunStat, the Safe Streets Task Force and the Violent Crime Unit”. It was formerly known as the DA’s Multi-Agency Gang Prosecution Unit, originally formed in 1996 as the Gang & Narcotics Prosecution Unit. Sorry about the aphabet soup, it is a direct quote from the DA’s page.
The MGU’s operating manifesto in contained in their Memorandum of Understanding signed in July 2012. An updated MOU was signed on September 12th 2016, but we have been unable to get a copy of the most recent MOU to date. We’d also like to see the minutes of recent quarterly MGU Board of Directors meetings.
“The MGU is a joint effort of six (6) primary law enforcement agencies:
The United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee
The Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
The Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office
The Memphis Police Department”
On the streets, MGU operatives often wear black BDU trousers, dark t-shirts with ballistic jackets, their personal choice of shoes, and an MGU patch. MPD members of MGU also have an MPD shield on the front of their vests, and drive characteristic white Dodge Chargers with police equipment but no livery. A small number of MGU operatives have no MPD shield and drive black or white SUVs with police equipment, and these are thought to be mostly sheriffs deputies, though some may be from Federal or State LE agencies. MGU headcount was recently quoted as 26 MPD officers and 21 SCSD deputies.
There is a related group known as the Organized Crime Unit. OCU’s chain of command is within MPD, but OCU works closely with MGU and other law enforcement agencies. OCU officers often wear civilian clothing and drive confiscated civilian cars. We take up the issue of MGU’s and OCU’s command structure later.
On the streets, when MGU and OCU operatives appear together in paramilitary uniforms, the main visual difference is that the OCU operatives wear their MPD shields in the same way they are worn while in plain clothes, sometimes on chains or lanyards around their necks and sometimes clipped to random spots on their ballistic jackets. The OCU ballistic vests tend to be more advanced plate carriers with steel or ceramic inserts fitted with tactical AR-15 magazine pouches, rather than the less-capable Kevlar worn by most MGU operatives. MGU operatives usually have their shields and MGU patches affixed to chest and belly area of their ballistic jackets. We have clocked regular MGU and OCU officers working together under the same command on various occasions.
The DA says that the role of MGU is totally gang-related including investigation of gang leaders and hard core members. “As a specialized unit, the MGU uses various investigative techniques and methods to conduct long term investigations.” The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) lists seven specific areas of operation, and all of there are gang-related. There is no provision in the 2012 version of the MOU for political policing or protest-related operations.
One of the less publicized roles of MGU is to maintain a database of alleged gang members, who are not necessarily convicted of crimes. “On September 23, 2013, MGU successfully petitioned Shelby County General Sessions Court obtaining the first ever gang injunction.” This legal tool purportedly bans suspected gang members from being at designated locations. This database is thought to include 1,700 names.
Expansion of MGU and OCU’s political role.
The earliest appearance of MGU / OCU at political events was probably the Black Lives Matter protest on Hernando de Soto Bridge on July 10th, 2016. In the Commercial Appeal photo to the left, the helmeted policeman in the left of the photo has an MGU patch on his chest, while the officer second from left has the OCU favored style of ballistic vest.
A previous major protest, the Greensward sit-down of May 30th, 2016, did not have any recognizable MGU or OCU officers present. We are not sure if OCU or MGU operatives were at the two Graceland protests in the summer of 2016.
The Bridge protest was near the one-year anniversary of Darrius Stewart’s death at the hands of MPD cop Connor Schilling and was accompanied by a lot of chatter from the Fusion Centers.
In 2017, we noticed MGU appearing at numerous political events. On January 16th 2017, Martin Luther King Day, MGU and OCU police made arrests during a protest at Valero oil refinery, and those arrested were added to the City blacklist.
On Mayday, 2017, operatives with MGU belly patches performed traffic duties at the Immigration March. See photo at right.
On April 3rd, 2018, MGU and OCU officers appeared at the 201 Poplar stop of the “Rolling Block Party”. On-scene commanders designated protest leaders for arrest, and several were arrested in snatch squad operations, including journalist Manuel Duran who is thought to have been fingered by ICE for arrest. Most of the officers were wearing MPD shields but none had body cameras as required by MPD regulations. The officer who arrested Manuel Duran described himself as OCU on the arrest affidavit, and several of the operatives were wearing MGU patches. There was also an SUV with an MGU decal present, which is considered unusual as most MGU vehicles are unmarked but with obvious police equipment.
MGU and OCU officers, including at least one OCU operative, undercover in plain clothes, were seen at TakeEmDown901 protests in 2017 and 2018 and participated in arrests.
On the evening of Friday 6th July, 2018, Keedran Franklin was arrested by Organized Crime Unit detectives.
On September 19th, 2018, the day after Martavious Banks was critically wounded by MPD police, MGU operatives arrested most of the six people charged. The arresting officers identified themselves as “Task Force” in court. One protester, Hunter Demster, was pointed out for “snatch squad” style arrest by a scene commander.
The foregoing proves that MGU and OCU have been increasingly involved in aggressive policing of protests and planned snatch squad arrests.
Photographing participants are political events is forbidden by the Consent Decree and in MPD policies and procedures manual. MPD claims they don’t work with ICE, but apparently MGU does. Daniel Connolly of the Commercial Appeal documents an MGU operative who identified himself as an ICE officer. MGU is also a means for MPD to deceive the public on its policies. In this 2017 Channel 5 article, Mike Rallings claims that they don’t work with ICE except when called to an incident. MPD and ICE operatives were operating jointly in MGU at the time Rallings made this statement.
MGU is headed by Amy Weirich in her capacity as MGU Board of Directors Chair, and she is addressed and referred to as General Weirich in MGU documents. This suggests that the MPD officers in MGU are outside the MPD chain of command.
The Board also includes ex-officio the heads of the six agencies listed in the MOU.
MGU Operational Commander is MPD Major Darren M. Goods, who earns over $81K.
Other identified MGU members include: ATF SAC Chris Rogers, MPD’s Detective Dennis Evans Jr. ($60K), SCSO Detective David McGriff Jr., ADA Chris Scruggs, Detective A. Taylor, MPD Lieut. Michael Juan Rosario ($71K), MPD Sgt. Mahajj Abdul-Baaqee ($65K), MPD Clarence Muhammad ($60K), MPD Sgt. Brian Alan Beasley (65K), Det. Doty, Det. Fernandez, Det. Stewart, ADA Paul Hagerman, Amy Weirich’s deputy, David Biggers Jr. of the Tenn. Western District federal prosecutors office, D. Michael Dunavant (US Prosecutor), Ed Stanton Jr (clocked in 2016 when he was Federal Prosecutor and who has a conflict of interest in the current context), Neal Oldham (US Prosecutor), ADA Colin Campbell and ADA Ray Lepone, who have been clocked at MGU functions in recent years.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, “MGU is led by Resident Agent in Charge Marcos Bess of the ATF along with Lieutenant Kenny Roberson of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and Major Darren Goods of the Memphis Police Department.”
Consent Decree Section I
I: Restriction on Joint Operations
The defendants and the City of Memphis shall not encourage, cooperate with, delegate, employ or contract with, or act at the behest of, any local, state, federal or private agency, or any person, to plan or conduct any investigation, activity or conduct prohibited by this Decree.
On 11/13/2019, the Court issued two orders, one to release the transcript of the August 27, 2019 in-camera conference, and the second to deny the City’s motion to rescind some of the restrictions in Section I. The actual transcript has not been released on PACER, the Federal Court docket system, as of the time of writing. These orders are taken as the Court’s re-affirmation of Section I and the Consent Decree as a whole.
The MGU has its own database, independent of MPD’s regular database. This database has the capability of tracking political intel. MGU operatives are instructed to create an index number for the MGU database and a separate number for their own agency database, for all reports. MPD members, while seconded to the MGU, do not have to follow MPD’s body camera regulations and do not follow MPD’s regulations in regard to the Consent Decree.
The Marshall Project recently wrote about six local police departments, including Atlanta’s, which have pulled out of joint Task Forces, because the task forces are not bound by local police regulations.
MGU is secretive in nature and has sophisticated intelligence gathering tools and an independent database outside MPD’s control. As long as MPD is part of the MGU/OCU it will be impossible to obtain or confirm compliance with the Consent Decree, regulations on photographing police or other MPD rules.
Organized Crime Unit (OCU)
The MGU as previously described have an occluded chain of command. In the MGU, officers report to General Amy Weirich through the MGU hierarchy, they are deputized to a Federal agency and they also report to their own agency. FBI rules mandate that all task force members are deputized to a Federal agency specifically to comply with FBI rules forbidding body cams, and to avoid other local LE regulations, including consent decrees.
MGU’s headquarters is at 3657 Old Getwell. They have also scheduled meetings at 994 South Bellevue, a mysterious industrial bunker-like building owned by the County.
OCU, on the other hand, has a clear chain of command at MPD. OCU is run by Precinct Commander Colonel Marcus Worthy who reports to MPD Deputy Chief of Special Ops Michael Hardy. The Special Ops division includes the TACT squad and the Real Time Crime Center.
OCU’s headquarters is at 225 Channel 3 Drive, and, unlike MGU headquarters, the address is not secret. They even publish their phone number: (901) 528-2338.
According to local lore, OCU officers are bumped a rank on entry and there are no operational officers below the rank of sergeant. Supervisory level OCU staff are lieutenants or above.
OCU has a siilar role at political events as MGU, and the two units have been observed to work closely together at political events. In court, both OCU and MGU officers tend to give their unit as “Task Force”, which is vague.
“The Organized Crime Unit of the Memphis Police Department is assigned the primary responsibility for investigative and control of organized crime, vice, and narcotics related offenses within the Department’s jurisdiction. The Unit is multi-faceted and actively participates in multijurisdictional task forces to coordinate the attack on illegal activities at the local, state, and federal levels.” (MPD 2014 Annual Report)
This statement is misleading. OCU does not have primary responsibility for those areas due to the mission overlap with MGU. OCU’s role on the MPD website does not include the policing of political events or the snatch-squad, politically directed, arrests of dissidents. The multijurisdictional task force mention appears to include both their joint operations and integration with MGU and also working with Federal LE agencies, who routinely deputize local LE personnel for the reasons outlined above.
It is clear, like when MPD officers are deputized to the MGU, the role of OCU in MGU or any other task forces that include Federal deputization require them to ignore MPD regulations, including the Consent Decree where they conflict with Federal guidelines.
MPD cannot participate in MGU, under the leadership of General Weirich, and while deputized to Federal agencies, and be compliant with Section I. Their recent history demonstrates frequent non-compliance with the Consent Decree. General Weirich is a State employee and not subject to the Consent Decree.
OCU could come into compliance with Section I, because it has a clear chain of command within MPD, but only insofar as it does not engage in the MGU or any task force which requires its members to be deputized to Federal agencies. Its commanders and members need to be trained in how to comply with Section I of the Consent Decree and its other requirements.
The City will say that not being able to engage in task forces will cramp its style, but the Marshall report shows that six cities have managed to achieve this, and the sky did not fall.
Maureen Spain is a busy soccer mom and a nurse who finds time to engage in local issues. We encountered Ms Spain several times before. She was arrested at the Greensward on Memorial Day 2016, by Richard Rouse who was looking for brownie points for promotion to sergeant. The day following her arrest, she was placed on an Authorization of Agency by the vengeful Zoo, even though she had not set foot on Zoo property that day. She took the case of her arrest to CLERB.
Ms Spain was recently detained, cuffed, physically abused and transported by cops who told her, during the abuse session, that they “love the Zoo”. We have full details of this incident, but first some background.
We previously documented the City’s use of AoA as a tool for political harassment. Among the over 2100 MPD victims of this irregular procedure, we highlighted five AoAs which were clearly part of ongoing political harassment at MPD, continued brazenly even while the Court Monitor is examining such issues. The most recent political AoA was Rodney Fisher’s from July 25th 2019, well after Monitor’s appointment.
* Author’s note: I was arrested with Ms. Spain and am also named on the same AoAs as she.
Authorization of Agency as political harassment
Ms. Spain has the distinction of being on the first political AoA that we know about. She was also on the AoA for the December 19th 2016 die-in protest at the Mayor’s house, which resulted in the City Blacklist. More than forty people were on this AoA, even though it was well known that no more than a dozen people participated in the Die-In. The majority of those blacklisted were there as political opponents of Mayor Strickland’s regime. The abuse of AoAs continued with another Zoo AoA, Dan Rosson’s at Memphis Animal Shelter and the aforementioned Rodney Fisher AoA with video.
We have documented AoA as a means of harassing those suffering lack of housing and other disenfranchised citizens. AoA remained unreported for at least ten years before its 2017 exposure with the City Blacklist. AoA as a secret police weapon seemed ideal when the City was mulling retaliation against the Greensward prisoners, so it is not surprising that MPD would add it to its arsenal of unconstitutional attack tools.
AoA is not the only harassment method used by MPD. Hunter Demster, Antonio Blair, Keedran Franklin and many others have been surveilled or arrested in recent years. Ms Spain herself, with numerous other activists, was featured in Joint Intelligence Bulletins as documented in the Kendrick trial documents.
Ms Spain, whose most recent political involvement was “just a day in the park”, was dialed in to Detective Tim Reynold’s paranoid conspiracy theory centered on Saul Alinsky’s book. This is part of a pattern of harassment which continued from May 2016 to August 2019, even while the Court Monitor was watching.
August 30th 2019 at Paradiso Cinema
On August 30th, Maureen Spain organized a birthday outing for her son and some of his early teen friends. She had a slight buzz on from a two glasses of wine earlier that day, and used a rideshare instead of driving to the Paradiso. At the theater, after a discussion with staff over their policy of not allowing children access to the movie, security guard Ray Daughtry dialed 911 and at least seven MPD officers responded: David Osborne, Martin Nolan, Lenette Otis, James Dolan, Chase Bates, Breana Johnson and Ryan Walker. Osborne and Nolan identified themselves to Ms Spain and the others are listed in the 911 Call Log (PDF) of the event. Audio of the 911 call is here. (WAV file).
According to the 911 log Ms Spain was detained at 8:28 PM, placed in custody at 8:51 PM, and she was transported at 9:25. As Ms Spain was never arrested, she was detained, cuffed and locked in the back of a cruiser at the Paradiso for a total of 57 minutes, and a further thirteen minutes while being transported. Normal police procedures require that detention at a location should be resolved within “about” 20 minutes, by release, transportation for further detention or arrest.
Ms Spain was jumped by Malco Paradiso security guard Ray Daughtry, who detained her and handcuffed one wrist. Officers Nolan and Osborne made the scene, placed handcuffs on Ms. Spain very tightly behind her back and sat her in the back of their cruiser. MPD’s Peerless-brand police handcuffs have a pawl and ratchet mechanism which allows the cuffs to get tighter with movement, but never looser. Being forced to sit on a pair of cuffs in an enclosed space in the back of a car is very uncomfortable, and every movement makes the cuffs tighter. If the police are being nice, they can insert a key and lock the ratchet so that the cuffs stay in place and don’t get tighter. These cops were not being nice that evening.
The two detaining officers videoed Ms Spain’s writhing in agony and made video of her through the opening in the partition. At one point, one of the officers said that he “loved the zoo”, tying the incident to the MPD harassment of Ms Spain, which had been ongoing for more than three years. At another point, one of the officers offered to loosen her cuffs, but took them off and replaced them even tighter, savagely twisting them and her wrists.
During the 57 minutes of Ms. Spain’s torture, her son and his friends waited on the curb until one of the other parents came to pick them up, so the kids were forced to see their mother’s mistreatment.
Ms Spain Transported.
Maureen Spain was transported at 9:29 and arrived at the MMHI Crisis Center at 9.42. The transporting officers were given as Lenette Otis, Chase Bates and James Dolan. She was finally uncuffed at 9:52 and released from the Crisis Center after a couple of hours. Although the 911 log ends with an indicated arrest, she was never charged in relation to the incident and no court records were filed.
As Ms Spain had previously been targeted as a political figure, the investigation was one likely to result in political intelligence being revealed, but we do not believe that the detaining officers had permission from the Police Director to conduct this investigation.
Maureen Spain’s injuries.
The above photos show bruising on Maureen Spain’s shoulder area and fingerprint bruises on her upper right arm, and her wrist swollen, welted, bruised and abraded by the handcuffs. Photos taken Sept 1st 2019.
She also had a very large bruise on her upper arm, which came up later, this photo taken on Sept 4th.
Ms. Spain also suffered nerve damage to her hands and wrists.
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.
The 2018 lawsuit which ACLU fought and won has produced tens of thousands of pages of documents.
“On March 2, 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee intervened in Blanchard v. City of Memphis, a lawsuit challenging the City of Memphis’ creation of a list of people, including multiple members of the Black Lives Matter movement and other local political activists and organizers, who require a police escort while visiting City Hall.”
ACLU won the case and a court monitor was tasked with supervising changes at MPD. Documents from the case can be found on the ACLU website, the Court Monitor website, and on the City site. PACER contains all the publicly available documents from the case. It requires a free registration and they will bill you after 150 pages in a quarter. There are more documents here.
All those documents
We viewed the wealth of documents produced by the trial as the added bonus, over and above the effects of the judgement. The documents offer a new and unique insight into the corrupt nature and practices at MPD. But who had time to download and read through tens of thousands of pages of dry legalese?
To provide a narrative, and to avoid further torment to people already maligned in the police material, I provide a personalized romp through the papers focused on what they say about me. The other people mentioned have given permission to use their mugshots.
The Saul Alinsky Thread
From Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 177. This is from a section titled “Blue Suede Shoes Post-Investigation Follow-up”, about the August 2016 Graceland police riot. I was not at Graceland for either of the two protests that July and August.
And I never read the Alinsky book. But facts are not a requirement for a Joint Intelligence Bulletin.
These JIBs were circulated daily to law enforcement and to commercial firms in the Memphis area. They have resulted in all sorts of problems to the people featured, including difficulty in finding employment.
From Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 186. This is from a section about the July 2016 Bridge protest. I wasn’t at this protest either. I was out on bail, with a long court date, from the Memorial Day Greensward arrest and I was avoiding protests on the advice of my attorney. I have never met Dana Asbury, and I knew Spencer Kaaz and Maureen Spain casually from that Greensward protest. We did not embarrass MPD and pit them against the citizens of Memphis. MPD did that to themselves.
Paul Garner’s Book Review
This post by Paul Garner of Mid South Peace and Justice Center was featured in an email by Det. Tim Reynolds AKA Bob Smith. It is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 213. Garner posted a book review, 58 people “liked” it and Reynolds included the Facebook avatars and names of all 58 in a JIB. JIBs were widely circulated among law enforcement and a list of Memphis businesses.
This sheds light on the previous two images, both showing quotes from the Alinsky book. The thing is, I have never read the book. I ordered the book in August 2018 just before the trial, when I saw the above material. While in the witness room during the ACLU trial, I made a point of carrying it around. But I was never able to finish it. The writing is poor and the insights trivial.
As this article in Vox, by Dylan Matthews explains, Alinsky was literally demonized by the far-right. “(Ben) Carson explained (erroneously), Alinsky dedicated his book Rules for Radicals to none other than … Satan himself!”. The book was dedicates to Alinsky’s mother. Because Hillary Clinton wrote a thesis about Alinsky, and because Rudy Giuliani attacked Barack Obama for being “educated in the Saul Alinsky methods.” Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Andrew Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, Monica Crowley and Bill O’Reilly repeatedly ranted about Alinsky.
Bob Smith AKA Tim Reynolds is using coded far right ideology when they invoke Alinsky. Never mind it was just a few people reading a book review, as protected by the First Amendment.
The truth of the matter is that Saul Alinsky was an old, non violent white man and we old, non violent white men are harmless and impotent.
At the Greensward.
Bob Smith friended me on Facebook in May 2016, the same month as Spencer Kaaz. Prior to this, Bob Smith friended Tami Sawyer, Paul Garner, Ian Jeffries, Bradley Watkins and Athena Palmer between July and November 2015. This time coincided with the killing of Darrius Stewart, the campaign to restart CLERB and Garner’s false arrest for photographing police at Manna House.
This is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 178, in a section titled “Blue Suede Shoes”, a reference to the Graceland protests, which I did not attend. The only group I was a member of at the time was Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which engages members of Congress on climate change policy. That and the Greensward constituted my ‘radical agenda’.
The “reliable source” was far-right police infiltrator Tim Reynolds AKA Bob Smith.
This is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 179. It contains a lie. I spent the entire morning taking photographs of the protest and the events preceding it. I have 211 photos to prove this. I never sat down or blocked Zoo officials, as the arrest ticket confirms. Photographing police activities is protected by the first amendment and MPD photo policy. At no point did any Greensward protest prevent a single visitor from accessing the Zoo, and Zoo attendance was up in the 2016 fiscal year ending June 30th 2016. In fact, the Free Parking Brigade helped visitors find free parking in the area surrounding the Zoo and probably increased attendance.
This is from Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement page 180. I was arrested while I was “at the rear of the police van, attempting to take pictures”. Bizarrely it goes on to say that I was arrested because the crowd started shouting after I was arrested.
In any event, my case was dismissed and expunged so public officials should not be using these records and mugshots for any reason.
MPD used a conspiracy theory inspired by far-right media to imagine I and other dissidents were in some radical organization inspired by the hated Saul Alinsky, using the Zoo protest as a front. They don’t seem to get it that saving a prime and priceless park is a legitimate end in itself.
In fact, contemporary police sources reveal, Maureen’s and my arrests were due to a police error. All our activities on the Greensward were protected by the First Amendment.
Before my arrest, I cared about the environment and a patch of precious City grass. Since being forcibly introduced to the workings of the criminal justice system, I have spent some time exposing its internal workings. I have never been radicalized, as I work within the system and under the protection of the first amendment, but I have gone from a few hours per week in the Park to full time exposing corruption. I did not choose MPD, they picked me. And dozens of innocent people who care about our city.
My role in the Greensward
I was active in the Greensward movement. I worked with the media operations, photographed events at the park; helped analyze the Zoo finances and distances traveled by Zoo visitors; and critique the Zoo’s Economic Impact Study. I organized the Chuck Brady Limerick Competition and various weekend activities to help get crowds to the park in April and May. I am admin of “The Fringe Element” facebook group.
The Greensward arrests.
Certain police sympathizers in the Park Protectors (Greensward) movement objected to comments I made in the social media. I wrote about the massive police presence on April 2nd and 3rd when 75 officers, with armored vehicles, helicopters, horses, three paddy wagons and a command center, threatened peaceful park users at a cost of $38K.
I also wrote about the Latino festival in early May which was attended by TACT officers and their Lenco armored vehicle. I also made other first amendment protected comments about MPD and police in general.
My work in the Greensward protests was only about the Greensward protest.
I have never been a police fan, and the police intimidation on the Greensward did not dispose me more kindly. Growing up in Northside Dublin, we knew that “all pigs are scum” and I repeated this bon mot frequently. After interacting with MPD I now realize that the Garda Siochana of my youth were not so bad.
In 2016, police sympathizers were highly mobilized in reaction to the 2015 City actions on reducing retiree benefits and after MPA president Mike Williams lost his run for Mayor. These cop fans infiltrated the Greensward movement.
Kathy Hurley, a police fan and Mike Williams’ former campaign manager, published a post with my photo and shared it with the MPA facebook page, saying that I intended to attack police at the Memorial Day protest, which was a complete lie. Due to my immigration status I decided not to sit down at the protest and instead spent the morning taking photos. Some cops apparently noticed me photographing the paddy wagon, recognized me from Hurley’s photo, and jumped me six or seven minutes before the end of a notice period that MPD Major Reynolds had given in an ultimatum.
Police fans had organized a “cop stop” for the protest. The idea was to bribe the police at the protest with doughnuts so they would not intervene. This hare-brained idea was countered when the police brass ordered their members not to attend the cop stop. They made an exception by appointing Richard Rouse as “liaison” to the park protectors. Rouse dispensed doughnuts, schmoozed with Park Protectors all morning, reported what he found to police brass and later arrested Maureen Spain. This demonstrates the futility of community members engaging with police, even with doughnuts.
We spoke to people knowledgeable about MPD regulations, who said that, if the police suspected I had a weapon, they should have jumped me, patted me down, and cut me loose. Instead, they over-reacted, disobeyed Rudolph’s order to wait out the deadline, and retaliated.
In short, I was arrested because police and their supporters objected to my first amendment protected speech. It is legal to criticize the police.
Bob Smith appears.
Bob Smith friended me in May 2016. After the May 30th arrests, the Park Protector groups were in uproar and many of them wanted more direct action. As admin of “The Fringe Element”, I was worried about some people, including Bob Smith, who were openly advocating more direct action. Not wanting to have people planning things in an open group, I created a secret Facebook group on June 5th entitled “Kessler Associates” and added Bob Smith and about six other people to the group.
It had been standard practice among Park Protectors in April to internally manage any direct action, because we were fighting a PR battle in the media and it took six or seven weeks to get the media mostly favorable to us. We had a group of marshals trained by Mid South Peace and Justice Center and took militants off-line into secret groups to let off steam. This kept the media focused on moms and kids with balloons, and the like.
Kessler Associates discussed some possible actions, and was mainly a way for people to let off steam. The main actions discussed were a possible “slow drive” to jam up traffic already bottlenecked at the Zoo parking lot entrance. These plans require secrecy to stay legal. It is legal to drive up to the Zoo window and count out 500 pennies, but if it is part of a plan to obstruct the entrance to a business, maybe not. A vehicle might break down in traffic and hold things up quite innocently unless it is planned. In the event, this group broke up on June 15th without executing any action, because operational security had been breached and we could not maintain plausible deniability.
Tim Reynolds literally tried to make a Federal case out of an idle comment about hacking the Zoo. I did not say that I had recruited two hackers, because I hadn’t, and. in fact, there were no Federal or any other indictments arising from this group. No crimes were committed during the 10 day lifetime of Kessler Associates, and no protests were organized. No protests were needed because news coverage of the Memorial Day arrests had gone international during this time. Our media operation was fully engaged.
I was aware of three other secret groups at the Greensward, none of which were infiltrated by Bob Smith. Two of these group hosted early discussions about the Memorial Day protests, but the actual logistics were organized in physical meetings. In fact, all three groups were dominated by police sympathizers and I was thrown out of them all more than a week before Memorial Day because I objected to the “Cop Stop” plan on the basis that no good can come from consorting with police.
The A-list discovered
Officer Polk, in the above memo, tried hard, after the fact, to create an offense to justify his action in requiring me to have an escort in City Hall. The conversation I had with George Boyington was about the ineffective security at City Hall and how a determined effort to bring a weapon into the building would defeat the security. The conversation with Boyington was overheard by Ursula Madden, the Mayor’s propagandist, but constituted free speech as no crime was contemplated and no provision of the First Amendment was violated.
There were no previous actions or threats towards the Mayor, and I was on the list because I had been falsely arrested at the Greensward because the police did not like my previous First Amendment speech directed at police.
As I wrote immediately after this notification, I was told I needed an escort because I was “on a list”. When I asked why I was on the list, Lieut. Bonner was summoned and explained it was “because of the Mayor’s house”. When I pointed out that I was not at the December 19th 2016 “Die-In”at the Mayor’s house, Bonner said “Then it was something you wrote on social media”. As everything I wrote on social media was first amendment protected speech, I was listed and was being sanctioned in retaliation for first amendment speech.
I went home and wrote contemporary notes of the interaction, submitted an open records request for the list, notified the media and the rest is history. Bruce Kramer called a meeting of blacklistees in his office, the Nashville office of ACLU became engaged and Blanchard et al, thanks to brilliant litigation by ACLU and a blustering defense by the City legal hacks, gave the people of Memphis the greatest legal win against the City since the original 1978 Kendrick consent decree.
We saw how MPD, inspired by alt-right ideology, decided that literature fans were enemies of the state, created JIBs which slandered individuals and shared them with potential employers, accepted lies from their sycophantic supporters, breached training and discipline to arrest protesters without cause, lied about alleged crimes and escorted political opponents in City Hall in another breach of the First Amendment.
Mike Rallings sent an email to all his members in February 2017 explaining the first amendment. He said that criticizing police is protected by the first amendment. You’d think that the basic constitutional law of the nation would be the first thing they’d teach recruits at the academy.
I was lucky. I was able to insulate myself against MPD slander by retiring a little early, but in the years following, dozens of City political opponents were followed, surveilled, arrested and slandered in JIBs circulated to potential employers. Their worst “crimes” were using the First Amendment to assemble, march and speak out against injustice. Harm was done to many young lives.
We have another Authorization of Agency case to share, this time that of Dan Rosson, against whom Memphis Animal Services, in collaboration with City Chief Operating Officer Doug McEwen, have created an AoA. Once again, the City has used AoA to silence a political opponent.
AoA and the City Blacklist.
Authorization of Agency first came to public attention when the City’s Blacklist was published on half a dozen AoA forms. Placement on Jim Strickland’s AoA was purportedly in retaliation for a December 19th Die-In action at Strickland’s, but it contained over forty activists’ names, far more than the ten or so protesters at that action. The list was correctly interpreted as a City action against a list of activists which MPD was managing in contravention of the 1978 Kendrick Consent Decree. The ACLU took the City and MPD to court and won.
AoA used against Zoo critics.
We publish some research on Authorization of Agency, compiling almost 1,700 AoA records obtained from MPD via Open Records Request. While 84.9% of the AoA victims were African Americans victims of police racism, a few, featuring Hunter Demster, Maureen Spain and myself were clearly in retaliation by the Zoo and MPD for harmless political speech. In my case, I was on two AoAs, one issued days after my 2016 arrest at the Zoo, which was judged by the courts to be a wrongful arrest, dismissed and expunged. My second Zoo AoA was illegally created by forging my name to an existing, pre-signed AoA with Hunter Demster, after we uneventfully visited the Zoo. Again, this was an act of political retaliation, supported by MPD files collected in violation of Kendrick.
MPD working for private employer with AoA.
Last week, we wrote about Rodney Fisher’s AoA at DHL/Nike. In this case, Mr. Fisher’s employer used MPD to inform him that he had been fired, in retaliation for political speech at his place of employment. The MPD Lieutentant Colonel who ordered the patrolman to inform Mr. Fisher was quoted as saying he had been targeted for non-existent “threats” made via social media, indicating that Mr. Fisher’s first amendment speech on political subjects had been investigated, and that a social media search had been performed by MPD.
New: Dan Rosson’s AoA
Now, we have a new AoA of concern, against animal activist and dog rescue volunteer, Dan Rosson. In this case, city employees at Memphis Animal Shelter and City Chief Operating Officer, Doug McGowan, were behind the retaliatory use of AoA.
Dan Rosson was a long-time volunteer at Memphis Animal Services. He was a dog foster, caring for shelter dogs at his home, and performing various tasks at the shelter. He photographed dogs and helped document their temperaments among other valuable services that saved money for the City and the lives of many dogs scheduled for euthanasia.
Mr Rosson recounts an incident at a Collierville vet, when a dog, which had been secretly labeled as potentially vicious by MAS. attacked another dog. Rosson subsequently, at an April 2018 MAS advisory board meeting, called for volunteers to be warned about dogs labeled as problematic. Mr Rosson, in the following months, also shared a long list of administrative issues at MAS that he wanted addressed.
On February 13th 2019 Mr Rosson posted on Facebook about some critically ill pups who needed urgent veterinary treatment. He had been banned from transporting animals and no-one else was available to drive the pups to the vet.
Mr Rosson, as a proponent of the humane treatment of animals, was upset at the unnecessary suffering caused by the delay in the treatment of the canines.
On February 14th, Mr Rosson circulated a petition to volunteers and others, and engaged in first amendment protected speech critical of the City administration of MAS. The petition asked the City to promote due process and prevent First Amendment abuse by MAS officials, naming MAS director Alexis Pugh.
On February 18th, Mr Rosson posted that City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowan had allegedly called Rosson’s former employer, University of Tennessee. Mr Rosson is retired from UT but had availed of the customary policy of allowing retirees to continue using their UT email. UT canceled Mr Rosson’s email account with resultant chilling effect on his ability to engage in free speech on this issue.
On the 20th, Mr Rosson received some Open Records Requests information from the City attempting to clarify the MAS policies on administering volunteers and asking for records on his own case, and the petition was delivered to the Mayor and City Council. That was the day the AoA was signed by Alexis Pugh.
On February 21st Mr Rosson was informed that he would be arrested if he set foot at MAS and was informed of other charges made by Pugh against him. These additional charges might constitute illegal acts but were not recorded (as sometimes happens) as marginal notes on the AoA. This suggests that MPD was maintaining other documents relating to Mr Rosson. This implies the existence of an investigation, which, being likely to uncover political information relating to Mr Rosson’s communications with the City and MAS, should have been approved by Police Director Rallings pursuant to the Kendrick Consent Decree, which had been well aired in Federal court by this time.
The accusations made by MAS management, if they could be substantiated, should have resulted in a police investigation. Mr Rosson has not been charged with any offense relating to alleged incidents at MAS.
We believe that Mr Rosson’s case is an clear example of AoA being used by MPD to harass political opponents of the City, which is a pattern we have been seeing lot of.
Note on Authorization of Agency.
If you are told, by MPD or property management, that you will be arrested if you set foot on a given property, ask if you are on an AoA.
If you are on an AoA, you can get the document for free via the City Open Records portal. You need to specify a date range, which should be a few days before and after the date you are informed. You need the address of the premised, and also the MPD precinct and ward in which it is located, which you can look up in the link.
Sometimes AoAs are placed without informing the victim. In this case you find out about it at some later point, when you visit the premises. In that case, figure out when the AoA was placed and straddle that date in your open records request.
Share your AoA adventures with us. If you feel that the AoA is the result of an MPD investigation not approved by the Director, or if its deficient due process is being used to threaten or intimidate you, or to impede your constitutional rights, contact the MPD Court Monitor. Read our AoA information. If you are arrested for trespass on an unposted location without being given notice to depart, share this information with your attorney.