FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Get answers to the most commonly asked questions about the 1978 Consent Decree (“1978 Kendrick Consent Decree”) and the Modified Kendrick Decree. Learn about the Memphis Police Department (“MPD”), the Monitoring team, how the Decree benefits the community, and more.

     On December 21, 2018, the Honorable Jon P. McCalla, United States District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee, appointed Edward L. Stanton III and his team of subject matter experts (collectively, the “Monitoring Team”) as the Court’s Independent Monitor. The Monitoring Team keeps the Court apprised of and ensures the progress of the City of Memphis’s compliance with the Modified Kendrick Decree. The Modified Kendrick Decree represents the ACLU’s and the City of Memphis’s agreement regarding the City’s various policing activities and protocols that may implicate the public’s First Amendment rights.

 

    The Monitoring Team answers your questions, where possible, by directly referencing the Modified Kendrick Decree and other court filings. Accordingly, this FAQ Page gives a general overview but does not provide all of the details of the 1978 Kendrick Consent Decree or the Modified Kendrick Decree.

 

    The Monitoring Team encourages readers to go to the original documents for further detail. The 1978 Kendrick Consent Decree and the Modified Kendrick Decree can be found on this website.

What is a consent decree?


A consent decree is essentially an agreement to settle a lawsuit subject to continued monitoring by the court. At the same time, because their terms are arrived at through mutual agreement of the parties (with approval from the court), consent decrees also closely resemble contracts. A consent decree is also a final order from a judge and carries with it the full power of the court. The provisions of the consent decree compel the court to (1) retain jurisdiction over the decree during the term of its existence; (2) protect the integrity of the decree through its ability to hold an individual or the city in contempt if they violate the decree; and (3) modify the decree should ‘changed circumstances’ undermine its intended purpose. (Source: Opinion and Order, October 26, 2018).




What does the 1978 Consent Decree arise from?


A lawsuit filed in 1976: Kendrick, et al. v. Chandler, et al., No. 2:76-cv-0449. The 1978 Consent Decree prohibited the City and the Memphis Police Department (MPD) from conducting “political intelligence” or operating or maintaining any office, division, bureau, or any other unit to engage in political intelligence.




Why was the 1978 Consent Decree modified?


In the Modified Kendrick Decree, Judge McCalla noted “the changing technologies available to law enforcement, the advent of and pervasive use of social media in today’s world, and the continuing responsibility of law enforcement agencies to guard against infringement of the First Amendment rights of citizens, which was the basis for” the 1978 Consent Decree. (Source: Preface, Modified Kendrick Decree, September 21, 2020).




Generally, what does the Modified Kendrick Decree Prohibit?


The Modified Kendrick Decree prohibits MPD from “engaging in law enforcement activities which interfere with any person’s rights protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution including, but not limited to, the rights to communicate an idea or belief, to speak and dissent freely, to write and to publish and to associate privately and publicly for any lawful purpose. Furthermore, even in connection with the investigation of criminal conduct, [MPD] and the City of Memphis must appropriately limit all law enforcement activities so as not to infringe on any person’s First Amendment rights.” (Source: Statement of General Principles (A), Modified Kendrick Decree, September 21, 2020). Accordingly, MPD cannot violate people’s First Amendment rights, including the right to speak freely and to lawfully associate with others, even in the context of a legitimate criminal investigation.





FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS