Memphis police ran fake social media account to monitor city protests

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the City of Memphis were back in court Tuesday, and much of the testimony centered on a fictional person named Bob Smith.

The ACLU accused Memphis police of using social media, undercover operations and other means to monitor activists with Black Lives Matter and other groups in violation of a judge's order against gathering "political intelligence" on activists and protesters.

A Memphis police sergeant testified Tuesday he used a fictitious social media account named "Bob Smith" to gain information on activists.

City spokeswoman Ursula Madden defended the practice, saying more than 150 law enforcement agencies across the country use this type of monitoring.

“This is a different time that we live in and we need to be able to monitor social media," Madden said. “Well I think what you see is what happened in Charlottesville. They didn’t have knowledge from using social media and it was a horrible situation and we don’t want that type of thing to happen in Memphis."

Earlier this month, the judge ruled the city violated the 1978 consent decree that stops the city government from gathering political intelligence on non-criminals.

That judge is allowing the trial to move forward as he considers other issues.

So far, the ACLU has called several witnesses to testify including some Memphis police officers.

Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings is also expected to testify.