By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — As Chattanooga activists recently allege police there use bogus Facebook identities, Nashville Police say they monitor social media for public safety.

Nevertheless, a Metro Police spokeswoman last week could not confirm or deny that metro police use pseudonyms as alleged in Chattanooga and reported by the Times Free Press.

In Memphis, federal Judge Jon McCalla ruled Memphis police must stop spying on politically active people and train officers to stop treating them like criminals. McCalla’s Oct. 26 order reenforces a 1978 consent decree against sharing information with other law enforcement agencies unless it was gathered during a verified criminal investigation.

Nashville police spokesperson Kris Mumford was asked Dec. 27 if police here use fake profiles to spy on the Internet, as the Chattanooga newspaper reported is alleged there.

“Social media monitoring in 2018 is a part of this police department’s commitment to public safety for all,” Mumford replied, reading the department’s statement. “We do not discuss specifics.”

She emphasized “monitoring” for “public safety,” adding, “It’s not difficult to go onto Facebook and find out information.”

The Times Free Press quotes Isaiah Moore, 27, as concluding “nobody but the police” could have mentioned an 11-year-old charge he faced as a juvenile. When found innocent, he witnessed his juvenile record shredded by a juvenile court judge, the newspaper reports.

The reference to a legally contradicted juvenile record was by an on-line persona, “Chante Raleigh,” the Chattanooga paper reported. Chattanooga Police “would not confirm or deny whether an officer created” that on-line persona, the Times Free Press states, adding that Facebook corporate policy opposes such misrepresentation. Moore’s police record was mentioned by “Raleigh” in what’s seen as an attempt to discredit police critics.

Nashville Police “have been using social media monitoring since the advent of social media,” Mumford said. The practice will continue in 2019.

As reported last fall by The Tennessee Tribune, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Memphis on Feb 22, 2017 to curb that city’s police return to unconstitutional practices such as filming protestors at political and civil rights rallies. That included people with non-profit organizations; Black Lives Matter associates; political activists and organizers; and people with no criminal record. MPD had a Facebook account to: look like community activists; find targets and events; know innocent citizens’ beliefs; and use Facebook Messenger as a tool to snoop on Americans.

Memphis police records in this decade “functioned like the files” created by the FBI during the 1960s and ’70s, ACLU attorney Mandy Strickland Floyd said in October during a program on the Vanderbilt University campus. Memphis Police information was shared during 2016 with the military, Justice Department, Tennessee Homeland Security, Shelby County schools, and businesses. Plainclothes officers monitored and photographed people at churches, food festivals, and a tree planting to remember a teenager killed by police.

Police use of body cameras might be allowed in Memphis under the new order but could not be used to compile dossiers on people who are exercising their Free Speech rights, the Tribune reported in October.

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...