Breaking Down The Kendrick Consent Decree
Attorney Jake Brown has been a part of the Memphis community since he was 12 years old. He grew up in the Germantown area and now lives in the Midtown where he is a senior litigator at a private law firm. Brown has represented several high profile cases involving police surveillance of private citizen and various practices involving the civil rights of certain individuals. During our conversation with Brown, he took the time to break down the meaning of and the story behind The Kendrick Consent Decree.
The Kendrick Consent Decree was birthed out of the FBI’s questionable role in the civil rights movement and the organizing of black people and people of color in the 1960s. On a national level, The FBI had leaders like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. under heavy surveillance. This monitoring of social activists groups was also being done on a more local level. Local Memphis law enforcement known as red squads were covertly surveilling activist groups, such as members of the NAACP and organizers of the sanitation workers strike.
Red squads were supposed to be reminiscent of
law enforcement in the 1920s who were sent to seek out communists. After the declassification of these red squad files, records were made known about the type of information they were keeping on these activists, in particular a set of files detailing when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis for the sanitation strike.
The files included memos that were sent out that kept particular tabs on him, such as where he went and who he spoke with. These files often referred to Dr. King as an “agitator.” This practice of the Memphis Red Squad was at its height under the leadership of Mayor Loeb and continued under the supervision of Mayor Chandler.
During that time, a University of Memphis student was also a Vietnam Veteran and
activist who was roommates with a member of the Memphis police department. The student
learned from his roommate that the police department had a dossier on him. He contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which ultimately caused a lawsuit. They believed this type of behavior had a chilling effect on people’s First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit would become known as Kendrick v. Chandler. The settlement, in this case, was a consent decree that prohibited the Memphis government from monitoring constitutionally protected political activities.
In 2016, Memphis protestors occupied the Memphis bridge in a call to action to raise
awareness about and eliminate police brutality. It was believed that such illegal practices were resurfacing as a way of surveilling known activists associated with this protest.
Attorney Brown speaks on how there is a
tendency to treat protestors like violent or dangerous criminals. As a result of that, the organized crime unit of the Memphis Police Department, which is trained to handle “the worst of the worst in terms of criminality” would show up to these peaceful demonstrations for the purpose of identifying key activists and creating secret files on them without their understanding or knowledge. Understandably
so, this has caused an obvious division and distrust between local activists and protective law enforcement.
In February 2017, an alleged blacklist came out. This was said to be an example of the city engaging in something explicitly prohibited by the decree. The blacklist sparked Blanchard v. City of Memphis, a lawsuit born out of Memphis’ creation of a list including multiple members of the Black Lives Matter movement and local political activists and organizers.
Attorney Brown continues to seek justice in cases where use of privilege oversteps the civil liberties of private citizens…