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City’s pre-crime intelligence unit works on open-ended surveillance agenda

New cadets take the oath (to the constitution) at a ceremony for Chattanooga police department. (Photo CPD)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 — The police department is conducting a massive investigation of the people without there being a specific case for which the investigation is being made.

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio Network

Intel is another way explaining a division under a policy updated Oct. 26, 2023, that intends to run an ongoing investigation into the citizenry without specific offenses in view. Police will build archives and databases on people, groups and associations apart from any specific offense alleged to have been committed.

The chief police says that “will only be initiated based on a criminal predicate,” meaning on an existing, real case. No open-ended investigations, in other words; only investigations of actual crimes; that’s what’s implied.

Under Mayor Tim Kelly, police chief Celeste Murphy takes the department further away from basic ordinance enforcement pursuant to the city charter and deeper into the murky and dangerous world of law enforcement in its surveillance and harm-anticipatory function.

The department’s record of obeying constitutional and statutory limits is poor, and that knowingly and intentionally. It uses traffic enforcement pretexts to generate prosecutions in breach of Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55, motor and other vehicles. City policy rejects arrest warrant guarantees in the federal 4th amendment, Tenn. const. Art. 1, sect 7, requiring arrest warrants and Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-7-103, arrest by officer without warrant. Officers give themselves wide latitude under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), to frisk, detain, shackle innocent people without probable cause in the name of officer safety.

Mayor Kelly and Chie Murphy ignore two administrative notices regarding lawless police powers, one Feb. 28, 2018, and a second April 15, 2020. They operate an oppressive general warrants scheme denying members of the public judicial intervention prior to arrest, and use the citations statute at § 40-3-118 that requires jailing and booking prior to any appearance before a judge.

The four-page creates surveillance in areas and among people that department believes it may be arresting at some point period surveillance is an activity apart from investigation of a particular is general blank and unfocused. Purpose is to generate databases that may be used later 

Intelligence is anticipatory of any particular actual offense come rather than a probe of a particular offense

The authority for police is limited, even though the city deems itself to “ have perpetual existence”under its charter. Generally, police have ordinance administration or enforcement authority. They can enforce any state law adopted by vote into the ordinance by the city council. Officers also have authority under common law, citizen arrest powers for felonies, codified at 40-7-113 in which a private citizen can make an arrest for a “public offense.”

Case law indicates city charters are not elastic instruments, and innovations outside their scope are disallowed.

But Chief Murphy wants “to identify, disrupt and prevent organized crime, persistent offenders and terrorist activities” and create “strategic operational and tactical intelligence, necessary to develop law enforcement priorities.”

Surveillance in Chattanooga is not go-it-alone. CPD will “maintain liaison with other local, state, and federal agencies charged with intelligence and enforcement responsibilities.”

CPD will harvest data on “individuals, groups, organizations and situations in which there is a reasonable possibility that they shall, or tend to” commit any of six breaches.

Not all the harms are in the criminal code at Title 39. 

  1. Violate the constitutional rights of another individual or group through unlawful means,

  2. Employ or advocate subversion or violence against government agencies, their operations, employees or officials,

  3. Cause or advocate violence against political, religious, racial or ethnic groups,

  4. Instigate civil unrest, assaults, destruction of property, or involve deliberate and concerted illegal behavior as a form of protest,

  5. Focus significant national or international attention should violence or disorder occur,

  6. Involvement in organized crime, vice, drug, fencing or other illegal activity.

The most obvious comment to make about this list is that private individuals cannot offend constitutional rights of other individuals. The only party that can are state actors acting upon members of the public. Much of the content of these targets is speculative and political. Who might a “subversive” person be – someone like me? Or you? 

This policy-speak is much like “cop-splaining” when police seize a motorist roadside or halt a person on a downtown sidewalk at the entrance of a restaurant. The types of “activities” subject to CPD intelligence harvesting:

  1. Terrorism, worked in conjunction with the FBI JTTF;

  2. Hate groups

  3. Civil disorders;

  4. Organized vice/drug activity;

  5. Street gangs;

  6. Outlaw motorcycle gangs;

  7. Career criminal offenders; and/or

  8. Other criminal activity.

Much of what passes as policing is suggested in six of these eight points. Some spookery will be in the open; some won’t. 

Surveillance “directly correlates” with “activity” by directly correlating “violent individuals, criminal organizations, civil unrest, or criminal activities that the Intelligence unit would commonly investigate.”

CPD policy is “investigate criminal activity *** through lawful means” and to “preserve the integrity of the constitutional rights assured to all citizens.: To secure this part of  the policy, intel is laundered through National Crime Information Center and other organizations. Cops will “uphold and work within the legal principles that govern the collection, storage, and distribution” of files on people and groups. The group “[adheres] to the policies and general orders” of the department, and “recognized and accepted legal principles set forth in the Tennessee Constitution and the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Limits against rogue operations keep going. The cops “shall not unduly interfere with the privacy of citizens” and shall give “special care” to ”safeguard the constitutionally protected rights of free speech, peaceable dissent, peaceable and lawful association, and due process.” Said to be off limits:”The personal predisposition, sexual orientation, or the political and/or religious beliefs of an individual” that 

shall “not become the focus of an investigation except where it can be established that said characteristics are indicative of involvement in illegal activity.”

The policy indicates the “collection of information is limited to criminal conduct or is related to activities that present a potential threat to this jurisdiction.”

The intelligence unit will use “covert” means, snitches and undercover agents.

Will liberty improve under this program? More safety? More “security” – that elusive fruit of fear and dread in the U.S.? Given our reports of beatings, frauds and abuse in Chattanooga, hardly likely.

Given that CPD regularly violates black-letter law and works beyond the bounds.of its authority, we can be confident that this program already is in breach of some of these grand promises. 

The first OPS-30-intelligence is inked Aug. 10, 2022, and updated Oct. 10, 2023. And will. become an established series of fiefdoms according to the interests of various officers0.

The department routinely violates the warrant requirement.and uses traffic laws to generate drug cases, CPD is in the business of generating crime to justify its payroll and its expenses and F$87.1 million yearly budget.CPD’s real time intelligence center opened in 2017. In 2015, CPD committed to “intelligence led and data-driven policing” with the creation of a dedicated crime analysis unit.

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